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Full text of "A historical address, delivered by the Hon. David Schenck, Saturday, May 5th, 1888, at the Guilford Battle Ground : subject, the battle of Guilford Court House, fought Thursday, March 15, 1781"

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University of North Carolina 

Endowed by the Dialectic and Philan- 
thropic Societies. 

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Saturday, May 5TH, \\ 


The Battle of Guilford Gourt House, 

Fought Thursday, March 15, 1781. 

Published by "The Guilford Battle Ground Company" by request. 

Thomas Brothers, Power Book and Job Printers. 




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Saturday, May 5TH, 1888, 



The Battle of Guilford Gourt House, 

Fought Thursday, March 15, 1781. 

Published by " The Guilford Battle Ground Company" by request. 

Thomas Brothers, Power Book and Job Printers. 


*^ C 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hil 

In pursuance of the following' correspondence and 
numerous individual requests from all parts of the coun- 
try, the "Guilford Battle Ground Company " has con- 
cluded to print one thousand copies of the address of the 
HON. David SCHENCK, delivered May 5th, 1888, on the 
battle field of "Guilford Court House." It will be sold 
at fifty cents a copy, a little above cost, and the profits, 
if any, will be devoted to the improvement of the grounds 
purchased by the Company. 

Very respectfully, 

Thomas B. Keogh, 

Sec'y of the Co. 

Greensboro, May 15th, 1888. 

Greensboro, May 5th, 1SS8. 
Hon. David Schenck : 

My Dear Sir : I heard to-day with profound satisfaction your noble 
and complete vindication of the North Carolina militia who fought at 
the battle of Guilford. For years these brave volunteers have rested 
under charges that dishonored them and were a source of mortification 
to the peoi^le of the State. To-day the stigma is wiped out, and hence- 
forth they will stand in history as men who fought bravely and most 
efficiently for the cause of American independence, and did not retire 
from the field until they did so in accordance with the orders of Gen- 
Greene himself. 

Deeply' appreciating the importance of the facts so strongly portrayed 
by you to-day to the memory of these brave men and to their de- 
scendants and to all North Carolinians, as well as to history itself, I 
in common with the State officers present, as well as a large number 
of prominent gentlemen throughout the State, earnestly request that 
the Guilford Battle Ground Company (of which many 7 of us are mem- 
bers) will cause your address to be published in pamphlet form and 
distributed throughout the State. 

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 


Greensboro, May 10th, L888. 
Box. A. M. Scales, Governor of Xorlh Carolina: 

Dear Sir:— I am in receipt of your letter of May ">th. in which you, 
in common with the State officers present a- well a- a lar^e number of 
prominent gentlemen throughout tec state, earnestly request that the 
Guilford Battle Ground Company will cause my address, delivered on 
the battle -round, to be published in pamphlet form and distributed 
throughout the State. 

There is no deeper stain on American history than the injustice 
done to North Carolinians in the battle of < tuilford Court House, and 
being impressed with this fact, I have devoted every leisure hour at 
my command for many nmntris to wipe out this stain. I have not 
taken l'i >r granted the aspersions of those who have sought to contemn 
our people, nor relied on the " vain repetition" of superficial and in- 
considerate writers, but have endeavored to collect the testimony of 
those who participated in the hat tie. and " know whei*eof they speak," 
and, from such testimony given by soldiers and historians, have drawn 
the conclusions which I submitted to my fellow citizens on the occa- 
sion to which \( Hi allude. 

It is therefore a pleasure unspeakable to me that you and the dis- 
tinguished and enlightened gentlemen who were present and heard 
my argument should pronounce it "a complete vindication of the 
North Carolina militia who fought at the battle of Guilford." If my 
vindication shall redound to the honor of North Carolina and make 
history speak the truth. I shall desire no greater reward than shall 
attach to the consummation of such a work. 

1 shall comply with your request by placing the address in the 
hands of the Company, and trust that it will soon he accessible to 
all who love our dear old State and sympathize with every effort 
to rescue her good name from those "who would defame her." 
I am. with great respect. 

Your sincere friend. 


The Battle of Kuilford Sourt House. 

Ladies and Gentlemen — 

Fellow-Citizens of our Common Country: 

Having been inspired, by frequent visits to this sacred 
spot, to institute a patient, thorough and impartial inves- 
tigation of the truth as it relates to the history of the 
Battle of Guilford Court House, my friends have honored 
me with the request that I deliver to you, this day, a his- 
torical address upon this great and decisive battle. 

The task is no easy one, as the events which led to it 
were so varied and important, the incidents of the battle 
so numerous and interesting, and the results which flowed 
from it so blessed and glorious to the American people, 
that it is difficult, by selection even, to condense the story 
in the space of a popular address. I, therefore, bespeak 
your indulgence if I shall fail to meet your expectations 
or to collate all that might be said in regard to this fruit- 
ful theme. 

Let us approach it with calmness and listen with pa- 
tience, as I shall endeavor to tell the story. 

As a North Carolinian, with a heart full of love for his 
native State and "swelling with gladness whenever we 
name her," I shall endeavor to repel the slan*ders which 
the jealousy and ignorance of others have heaped upon 
her and to get out of the ruts of "vain repetition" into 
the smoother road of investigation and inquiry, not taking 
for granted what one or two men have said in their haste 
or their wrath, and which a hundred have repeated, but 
venturing to produce the cotemporaneous facts and de- 

ducing from them my own opinions, I shall submit them, 
with confidence, to your reason and judgment. I shall 
not detract from the record of others nor "set down 
aught in malice'" of any one, but attempt to portray the 
scenes of more than a century ago, as they appear to me, 
through the long vista which intervenes. 

We stand to-day on sacred soil, in the very midst of 
the place where, on Thursday, the 15th day of March, 
1781, was fought, what I verily believe to be, in its re- 
sults, by far the most important battle of the revolution- 
ary war; it was the beginning of the end. The retreat 
of Cornwallis from the field was the acknowledgement, 
bv a proud am! reluctant heart, the attempt to sub- 
ject the Southern States and cnA the rebellion was a fail- 
ure, and with sorrowful step he followed his inevitable 
doom to the prison walls of Yorktown where on the 19th 
i.\ay of October, 17S1, he became a humiliated and 
conquered captive. 

The splendid army of Burgoyne, coming in all the 
pomp and pride of discipline and numbers had been 
beaten and captured at Saratoga in October, 1777; the 
army of Sir Henry Clinton had been compelled to seek 
the shelter of its fortifications and the protection of the 
British fleet at New York. British invasion at the North 
had failed in the fall of 1779, when the English govern- 
ment determined to transfer the seat of war to the South 
and make a desperate and final attempt to overrun the 
Carolinas and Georgia and separate them from their sister 
colonies; hoping, with this foothold, to follow up their 
victor}" with the subjection of Virginia and the ultimate 
conquest of the country. Lord Germain had carefully 
prepared the plan of the campaign and marked the par- 
ticulars of its cruel progress. North Carolina was to be 
invaded from Wilmington and the Cape Fear as a basis 
of operations and supplies; South Carolina was to be 

conquered by first capturing Charleston and then keep- 
ing the people of the. coast in subjection by the threat of 
turning loose upon them the numerous slaves of that re- 
gion of the State; the upper country was to be kept in awe 
by the menace of Indian invasion from the frontiers, and 
all the horrors that this calamity suggested to their 

By these means it was expected that the spirit of the 
rebellion would be crushed and the loyalists become nu- 
merous enough to hold the country in submission to the 

Sir Henry Clinton sailed for the South and began the 
seige of Charleston on the 9th day of February, 1780, 
and ended it on the 12th day of May by the capture of 
General Benjamin Lincoln and the American army under 
his command. North Carolina had gone to its rescue, 
and every regiment of the Continental line of North Car- 
olina Regulars, under General Hogun, numbering about 
one thousand men, had been embraced in the capitula- 
tion. A few only of the officers who had lost their 
positions by a consolidation of the regiments in May, 
1778, had escaped from the fate of their comrades. 

The fall of Charleston left the South without an army 
to oppose the invaders; the citizens of that State were 
panic stricken with this sudden and overwhelming mis- 
fortune. Their civil government entirely dissolved, their 
Governor became an exile in North Carolina, the loyal- 
ists embodied in every part of the State; the stoutest 
Whigs, even those who had served in the Continental 
Congress, submitted to the conqueror* and renewed their 
allegiance to the royal government. 

All regular opposition to British power ceased. Marion, 
with a few devoted men, took refuge in the swamps of 
the Pee-Dee and Sumpter and his handful of followers 
-Bancroft. Vol. 5 p.393. 

sought the fast less of the mountains, that last refuge of 
patriots in every land, as the only hope of safety. 

The whole State was prostrate, and the King rejoiced 
and the parliament exulted that at least one State was 
thoroughly reclaimed and that their plans were a success. 

Sir Henry Clinton returned to New York to enjoy the 
congratulations of his friends and the glory of his victory, 
leaving Lord Cornwallis to command the Southern army 
and push his conquest into North Carolina. 

The English outposts were extended to Georgetown, 
Camden and Ninety-Six, and proclamations, breathing 
vengeance and cruelty to the Whigs, were issued. Plun- 
der and bloodshed and anarch} 7 rioted over the land un- 

The Provincial Congress was filled with gloomy fore- 
bodings; but rallied sufficiently to organize a small band 
of regulars from Maryland and Delaware, under the Baron 
DeKalb to occupy North Carolina and co-operate with 
its militia for defence. In an evil hour to American in- 
dependence General Horatio Gates was entrusted with 
the command of this skeleton army and it soon fell a 
victim to his rashness and folly at Camden, where he 
was routed and his army almost destroyed. The struggle 
now seemed ended in the South. The nation looked on 
with amazement and horror at this swelling tide of mis- 
fortune which seemed to be swallowing up every hope of 
liberty as it spread over the land. 

The government was paralyzed; its armies were 
captured and beaten; its treasury was empty; its regular 
soldiers were languishing in the filthy prison ships of the 
enemy; the loyalists were organizing for rapine and re- 
venge and the savage was painting for the war path and 
for blood. 

Cornwallis, willing to carry out the unrelenting and 
merciless plans of Germain, selected Lieutenant-Colonel 


Banistre Tarleton of his cavalry and Colonel Patrick 
Ferguson, who led a body of picked infantry, as the 
instruments of his oppressive purpose. 

The former made himself conspicuous by the massacre 
of Buford's command in the Waxhaws and received the 
commendations of his commander for the bloody work. 

Ferguson's mission was to organize the tories and 
overawe the Whigs in the up country districts, which 
meant to hang and imprison those who refused to take 
the oath or resisted his power. A thousand loyalists 
had joined his battalion of Regulars and marched from 
Ninety-Six through the upper counties of South Carolina, 
unopposed, into Rutherford and Burke counties in North 
Carolina. Mis will was law and his command was death. 
Right and mercy were disregarded and the people fled 
in terror and dismay before his advance. Bold in his 
movements, profane and denunciatory in his proclama- 
tions, he went forth breathing threats upon all who with- 
stood his authority. Whole families and neighborhoods, 
gathering what they could in the moment of danger, 
fled from his approach. 

The men of Burke, who had dared to strike his out- 
posts, were unable to oppose his advance and fled across 
the mountains to the Holston and the Nollichucky where 
they found refuge with Shelby and Sevier. There Col- 
onels Charles McDowell of Burke, Isaac Shelby of Wash- 
ington, and " Nollichucky Jack," as Col. John Sevier was 
familiarly called by all North Carolinians, agreed to 
form a volunteer corps of their mountain soldiers and 
march to the rescue of their friends; to hunt for Ferguson 
and to revenge themselves upon him and his marauders. 
At Quaker Meadows, the home of the McDowells, on 
the Catawba, two miles North of Morganton, on the 
30th day of September, 1780, assembled these hardy sol- 
diers; men who had felled the forests, destroyed the wild 


beasts which surrounded them and driven back the 
Indians who opposed the march of their civilization. 

They knew nothing of the stamp tax and the use of 
tea but they found men seizing their cattle, plunder- 
ing their houses and insulting their wives, and they 
determined on revenge. 

Cleaveland from Wilkes, Winston from Surry, Ham- 
bright and Chronicle, from Lincoln joined the Mc- 
Dowell's, Charles and Joseph, from Burke. Campbell 
from Virginia came to the rescue, Hill, Lacy and Wil- 
liams from South Carolina joined the pursuit. 

On the 7th day of October they brought Ferguson to 
bay at Kings Mountain. 

They were ignorant of military tactics and knew less 
of the science of war. They had been trained to shoot 
the deadly Deckhard rifle and to close with the knife and 
tomahawk which they carried in their belts. The}- fought 
from tree to tree and were vigilant and quick - in all their 
movements. Officers, as well as men, were armed alike 
and during the combat the)' fought on an equality, only 
expecting the control of an officer when decisive move- 
ments were to be made. No printed circulars announced 
their order of battle; there were no glittering uniforms to 
inspire authority, each was dressed in the hunting shirt 
of the da)', with his powder horn on one side and his 
bullet pouch on the other, with knife and hatchet in his 

They were drawn up in line and told that they were to 
form a circle around the hill and press forward to the 
centre until Ferguson was killed or captured. 

Campbell of Virginia who had been honored with the 
nominal command had but few words to say. He in- 
structed each regiment and battalion as to the position 
assigned it, and, waiting till they formed the magic circle, 
he advanced to the head of his column and gave but one 

1 I 

command: "Now, boys shout like hell and fight like 

In a moment the war whoop of the frontier echoed in 
the forest and the keen crack of the rifles mingled with 
its sound. From tree to tree they advanced and with 
every discharge of their rifles a British soldier fell. Fer- 
guson amazed at their reckless daring, ordered his regu- 
lars to charge with the bayonet and push them back. 

The charge came and the riflemen retreated before the 
bayonet; but as the British turned to regain their line a 
volley thined their ranks one-third, and the "shouting 
devils" were again at their heels. Thrice this charge 
was repeated until only twenty regulars survived the 
dreadful carnage. 

The circle had become smaller each time, Winston 
had reached one summit and Hambright another, leav- 
ing Chronicle a corpse behind them. The portly form 
and stentorian voice of Cleaveland were seen and heard 
near their camp exhorting his men to " shoot low and aim 
well." Williams fell at the head of his men, but Lacy 
and Hill Rushed over his prostrate form to revenge his 

The whistle of Ferguson, the signal for a charge, was 
heard in the din of battle. The Whigs knew his signal 
and his checked shirt that he wore in battle, and were 
watching for him to come in sight. In a moment, wield- 
ing his sword in his left hand and spurring his white 
charger to a furious speed, he made a dash for life and 

One Gilleland, of Sevier's command, a North Caro- 
linian, first discovered his approach, and though wounded 
and sick, he raised his rifle, but it failed to fire; then 
turning to Robert Young, a comrade near by, he shouted, 
"There is Ferguson — shoot him!" Young, perceiving 
the prey, raised his pet rifle to his shoulder and replied: 

I 2 

"I'll sec what Sweet Lips can do." The music from 
"Sweet Lips" had not yet brought back the echo from 
the rocks when Ferguson fell, unconscious, with a bullet 
through his brain. North Carolina was avenged. 

The battle was ended, the white flag ran up and with 
the exception ot hanging a dozen or so of rapacious to- 
nes, the carnage ceased. Not a single man of Ferguson's 
command escaped. 

This victory of undisciplined troops, who had sprung 
like tabled soldiers from the ground; who had organized 
their regiments without a General, who marched without 
a commissar} - or quartermaster; who fought and bled 
without a surgeon to dress their wounds; who neither 
asked nor received a soldier's wages; who came, unbid- 
den, as volunteers, to save a prostrate country and to 
punish a devouring foe; these untutored men of the Car- 
olinas and Virginia were the first to hurl back - the invaders 
and strike dismay into their ranks — the first to "relight 
the torch of freedom" on their beacon hills and call to 
their saddened countrymen still to hope. 

While we honor the comrades who fought by their 
sides, let the facts be imperishable as the eternal hills, 
from whence came these men, that this was a North Car- 
olina victory — conceived ami organized by North Caro- 
linians, with two-thirds of the soldiers who executed it 
from the ( )ld North State. .That the vanguard of attack 
was led by Winston and Chronicle, from Surry and Lin- 
coln, the latter of whom yielded his youthful life a heroic 
sacrifice to the land he loved. 

Cornwallis was at this time in Charlotte, smarting with 
the sting of "The Hornets" who surrounded him. I lis 
couriers were shot d< >wn and his news gatherers slain. The 
defeat and death of Ferguson was first announced to His 
Lordship by the joyful Whigs who shouted it in the ears 
of his pickets and lighted bonfires in sight of his camp. 

Every shadow now seemed a soldier to his distempered 
vision; every soldier seemed a troop rising out of the in- 
visible distance beyond. Exaggerated accounts of the 
gathering backwoodsmen, who seemed innumerable and 
invulnerable, were circulated through his camp. Dismay 
was in every countenance. On the night of the 14th of 
October, though weak and sick, he (led in the darkness 
and [dunged through the historic mud" of the Waxhaws, 
never resting his feet till he reached a place of safety at 
Winnsboro, South Carolina. Here he sate down to real- 
ize the mutations of fortune, and to learn that North 
Carolina was yet unconquered and determined to be free. 

It taught him another lesson — that his bloody tragedies 
would be avenged; that his oppressions could not con- 
tinue with impunity. Above the roar of battle at Kings 
Mountain, his soldiers had heard the ominous words 
"Tarleton's quarters" and before the hand of vengeance 
could be stayed a hundred crouching loyalists had fallen 
victims to the spirit of retaliation. From this time forth 
Cornwallis behaved as a soldier, not from choice, but 
from necessity and personal danger. 

Hut we must hasten on with our story. 

On the 14th day of October, 17S0, General Washing- 
ton, acting under the powers delegated to him by Con- 
gress, announced his selection of Major-General Nathanael 
Greene to succeed General Gates, and on the 4th day of 
December he assumed command at Charlotte. 

He found at Charlotte scarcely eleven hundred troops 
of whom only eight hundred were fit for duty. Many of 
them with garments so tattered that they could not 
appear on parade, but under those rags were indomitable 
spirits. Here was the fragment of the first Maryland, 
under Major Anderson, the only organized force that 
retreated from Camden, one hundred of the "Blue Hen's 
Chickens," Kirkwood's Delawares, and a small remnant of 


Colonel Hal. Dixon's battalion of North Carolinians, 
"who fought a^ long as there was a cartridge in their 
pouches" and who have been made immortal in history 
by the pen of Lee, men who fought over the dying 
body of DeKalb. These men were patriots and soldiers, 
though covered with tatters and rags and only waited 
the first opportunity to capture a wardrobe from the 

Greene, finding that this region was exhausted of 
provisions, divided his forces. Taking his main army to 
"Camp Repose" on the l'ce Dee, in Anson count)', he 
detached General Morgan, on the 16th day of December, 
across the Catawba to watch the enemy and strike a blow 
if oppi irtunity offered. 

His force consisted of 320 men detached from the 
Maryland line, a detachment of Virginia militia of 200 
men under Triplett and Tate who had seen hard service, 
and Col. William Washington's cavalry, about 80 men. 
In all about 600 men. These were to be reinforced by 
the militia of that section. 

He was ioined by Major Joseph McDowell, of Quaker 
Meadows, with i</3 of his Kings Mountain veterans from 
Burke and Rutherford counties- and 120 men from Meck- 
lenburg and Lincoln countiest 70 militia from South 
Carolina that came with Pickens, who had just escaped 
from prison and about ioo Georgians under MacCall and 
Cunningham. In all 1055 men of whom at least 310 
were from North Carolina or more than one-half of all 
the militia. 

Tarleton's force consisted of 550 dragoons, (which 
constituted his Legion) about 500 regulars and two pieces 
of artillery, giving him greatly the advantage in num- 
bers, discipline and weight of arms over Morgan. 

* Johnson's life of Greene, p. 8HS. 
1 Bancroft Vol. 5, p. 190. 


It is important that we give the plan of this battle, 
which had so much influence over General Greene in the 
arrrangement of his troops at Guilford Court House. 
Morgan formed two lines of militia in front, the first 
line being on each side of the main road on which Tarle- 
ton was approaching, the right commanded by Colonel 
Cunningham, of Georgia, the left by Major Joseph 
McDowell, of Quaker Meadows, North Carolina. 

The second line of militia was under the command of 
General Francis Pickens and the third line was composed 
of the regulars and 200 Virginia militia, who were veter- 
ans in service. 

This you will hereafter observe was exactly General 
Greene's order of battle at Guilford Court House. 

Before the battle began and while Tarleton was form- 
ing his troops, in sight, General Morgan walked along 
the lines of the militia, exhorting them to firmness, in- 
structing the first line to "select the men with the 
epaulettes" "and announcing that" all he asked of them 
Johnson, in his life of Greene, states this fact with great 
particularity and emphasis, but strangely neglects to state 
that this same order was given by General Greene to the 
militia at Guilford Court House. 

The plan was successful. The militia killed so many 
of the British officers that when the enemy reached the 
third American line they were in confusion for want of 
orders and officers and fell an easy prey to the disci- 
pline and courage of the regular troops. So great was 
their demoralization that a whole regiment threw down 
their arms and fell upon the ground and begged for 
quarter. The battle had been won already by the mil- 
itia, of whom a large majority were North Carolinians. 

*. Johnson's life of Greene, Vol. 1, rl. 37S. 

1 6 

The mountain men had destroyed Tarleton's command, 
whom they hated as the Vandals of their day, and the 
men of Mecklenburg had made good the resolutions oi 
May, [775. 

At that time Cornwallis lay to the Southwest at Fish- 
ing Creek, in the North Western portion of what is now 
York count)-, South Carolina, about twenty miles distant, 
waiting for Tarleton to return in his triumphal march 
with Morgan a captive at his heels; but Tarleton re- 
turned under whip and spur, a beaten and disgraced 
leader, lie had won his last victory at the butchery of 
the Waxhaws and the sun of Ids fortune set in darkness 
at Yorktown. Thenceforth he was despised but not 
feared. Cornwallis was again appalled at the destruction 
of his finest troops by the undisciplined militia of North 
Carolina, and paused in his camp for twenty-four hours 
before he regained his self-possession, and then too late 
to intercept the "old waggoner" who was retreating in 
haste through Rutherford, Burke and Lincoln with lii^ 
prisoners and boot) - . Tins stupid and fatal delay of 
Cornwallis made Morgan's retreat into North Carolina 
and his junction with the main army at this spot on the 
iith of February, possible. 

1 have not time to relate the thrilling incidents of this 
wonderful retreat ol Morgan — almost equal in skill and 
courage to the retreat of the Ten Thousand. Superficial 
and superstitious writers, of so called history, have been 
so astounded at its thrilling incidents that they have ig- 
nored the wisdom and courage of Morgan and Greene 
and ascribed their escape to supernatural intervention. 
The)' have declared that in turn as the Americans crossed 
the Catawba and the Yadkin and were in the very jaws of 
the British Lion, God sent the flood of waters and sepa- 
rated them from their pursuers. God has been good and 
merciful to this blessed land, but has not performed miracles 


to save it as yet. He raised up General Greene as the mil- 
itary deliverer of the South and inspired him with sagacity 
to have the Dan, the Yadkin and the Catawba rivers ex- 
plored, and to have ever)' ford marked and every boat 
secured, and to General Greene's superior knowledge of 
these streams and the roads of the country is due this 
masterly retreat. Morgan was two days ahead of Corn- 
wallis when he crossed the Catawba" at Sherrill's Ford 
and rested for his Lordship to approach, and the Ameri- 
can forces gave him battle as he waded the river at 
Cowen's Ford. On the 31st of January, 178 1 , Greene 
rested, too, at the Yadkin, and calmly wrote his dis- 
patches while British cannon balls were unroofing the 
little cabin that sheltered his table. He crossed the Dan 
in ferry boats that waited, a week, his coming and the 
enemy were unable even to harass his rear. It is one of 
the wonders of literature that this superstitious view of 
the great retreat has so often been repeated as to be re- 
ceived by the masses of our people as history. It is about 
as silly and groundless as the assertion made by this 
same class of sensational writers that the North Carolina 
militia fled here without firing a shot, and to our everlast- 
* Johnson's Greene, Vol. l, pp. 40. r )-406. 

Note.— Morgan reached the Catawba River, at Sherrill's Ford, on Wednesday, 
the 24th day of January, 1781, and crossed it. He had kept Pickens further up the 
river. Pickens crossed the Catawba, with the prisoners on the way to Virginia, 
at Island Ford. He made no halt, but hastened on to Virginia. 

Morgan, with his regular corps, halted at Sherrill's until the 30th of January, 
six days, and then moved down that evening, with Gen. Greene, who, with his 
staff, had reached him that day, to Beattie's Ford. 

Cornwallis came through old Tryon Court House, now in Gaston, then down 
the Flint Hill road, crossing the South Fork at Gattis' Ford, ,1ust above the pres- 
ent Phifer's Factory, and reached Ramsour's Mill on Tuesday, the 23rd of "Janu- 
ary. Here, in order to lighten his march, he spent two days, the 24th and 25th, 
burning his wagons and heavy baggage— the step which proved fatal to him in 
the end. It rained the 2™th and 28th, raising the Catawba. The river subsided 
on the 30th. 

Morgan retreated the evening and all night of the 3lst (Wednesday) towards 
Salisbury with his corps. Greene remained to bring off the militia and barely 
escaped capture. 


ing shame be it said that until the day of Caruthers, that 
noble Christian and lofty patriot, no North Carolinian has 
taken time to expose the gross slander heaped upon 
those patrii 'tic men. 

It is not alleged that the riflemen of Winston and 
Armstrong of Surry, or the gallant Scotch-Irish of Guil- 
ford, who fought under Forbis, or the North Carolina 
Cavalry, under the Marquis of Bretigny, fled, or that a 
single officer oi the militia even flinched from duty. For 
all these men words n\ encomium have been written and 
the chivalrous conduct ol Davie has extorted from the 
jealous)- of our traducers the highest meed of praise. 

It is against the undisciplined and poorly armed militia, 
whom Lee said it was murder to pit against English vet- 
erans and British bayonets, that these anathemas have 
been hurled hurled, too, to shield their own misfortunes 
,{\m\ blunders. The author who has asserted it loudest 
and with unpardonable exaggeration has not been able 
to stand himself before the bar of history uncondemned 
for his own conduct in this battle.""' This gross injustice 
has gone unchallenged, but in due time it shall lie ex- 
posed and North Carolina shall be vindicated. 

The retreat of General Greene ended when he crossed 
the Dan at Irving's Ferry the 15th of February, 17X1, a 
whole day ahead ol his pursuers. 

Cornwallis was foiled, now, the third time and with dis- 
gust and disappointment he turned his face to Hillsboro; 
and concealed his chagrin by issuing high sounding 
proclamations recounting how he had conquered North 
Carolina and driven the last rebel from her borders. In 
one month from the date of this military gasconade he 
was burning bridges behind him in his flight to the sea, 
and his feet never rested until he crouched behind the 
breastworks at Wilmington. 

-See Appendix. 


General Greene rested his troops, and being joined by 
a thousand Virginia militia, re-crossed the Dan on the 
23rd of February and formed a camp at Speedwell Iron 
Works on Troublesome Creek, fifteen miles Northwest 
of Guilford Court Mouse. 

Col. Otho Williams had already been detached with 
1300 light troops to harass Cornwallis's camp; 700 of 
this gallant band were North Carolina militia from Rowan, 
Mecklenburg and Surry, who with about 30 Georgians un- 
der MacCall constituted the brigade of Pickens and which 
Johnson, in his history, calls Pickens' South Carolinians. 
The Palmetto State did not require such a misrepresenta- 
tion to sustain her character. These men were the troops of 
Graham and Davidson and Locke, who were left without 
a leader by the bullet of 1 lager, the tory, who slew his 
neighbor to enslave his country and tied thenceforth like 
Cain, a wanderer through the earth. Pickens was then 
an exile in North Carolina, brave, chivalric, burning to 
avenge the oppressions and wrongs of his people but 
without men or arms to execute Ins purpose. In all the 
generosity of unselfish patriotism these North Caro- 
linians elected General Pickens to take the place of 
that noble patriot whose name is perpetuated in the 
counties and colleges of his State. Pickens appreciated 
the honor and difficulty of filling the place of General 
William Davidson, the brave martyr of the Catawba, but 
he rose with the clanger and won renown at the head of 
this famous command. 

Cornwallis was so beset and goaded by the daring of 
this brigade that he sallied forth in his rage like a wounded 
bear to avenge himself upon his tormentors — tormentors 
whom his proclamation said had (led from the State. 

The tory band of Pyles had been cut to pieces on the 
Alamance, and Tarleton had fled with courier after courier 
shouting: in his ear the advance of Pickens and Lee and 


Graham who were galloping over hill and valley to over- 
take him. 

With bitter determination Cornwallis marched his army 
to the Alamance and made a dash at Wetzell's mills, for 
the North Carolina militia, under Butler and Eaton, who 
were marching to reinforce General Greene. This was 
the only spurt of energy or enterprise shown by Corn- 
wallis in the whole campaign and it was foiled by the 
watchful eye of Otho Williams who reached the mill ten 
minutes in advance and drawing up his force on the op- 
posite hill gave the enemy such a check" that the enter- 
prise ingloriously ended. The reinforcements reached 
Greene's camp on the evening" of Saturday, the ioth of 
March. The North Carolina brigades numbered about 
five hundred each. Butler's Brigade from Granville and 
Orange, Eaton's from Bute, now Warren and Franklin, 
and Halifax; the Virginians under Generals Stevens and 
Lawson, both of whom were veterans, and who were 
now supernumerary Continental officers in command of 
militia, numbered about 1650 men — 600 of these under 
General Stevens were veterans also. 

The Sabbath was spent in rest. This was one of the 
Quaker habits Greene had not lost in his thirst for mili- 
tary glory. 

Cornwallis lay then at New Garden with his whole 
army and was watching, with sullen inactivity, for the 
next movment of his wily ami determined foe. 

The English nobleman, enlightened by education, 
trained to the art of war under the ablest commanders 
and with four years experience in American warfare, had 
been taunted and baffled by a yeoman, the son of a 
blacksmith, whose youth was spent at the plow, and his 
Lordship felt the deep humiliation of his failure. Corn- 
wallis was brave, but his antagonist never came within 
reach of his blow. lie was insulted in his camp and 


driven to desperation and rage but his foe, though visible 
at every outpost, was too wary for his snares. He wanted 
to fight — his provisions were low — he was in an enemy's 
country where every day increased his danger; but 
Greene had attained to that degree of military skill that 
he could not be forced to fight until he chose his ground 
and the time for the battle. 

On Monday, the 13th of March, General Greene made 
every preparation for an advance and the morning of the 
14th found him at Guilford Court House in eight miles of 
the enemy's camp. 

Lee and Washington were called in, and the 14th was 
spent in reconnoitreing the grounds and acquainting the 
army with every road around it. Ammunition was dis- 
tributed and the men encouraged to do their duty. 

Thursday, the 15th, Greene's army was rested and 
ready for battle. 

Cornwallis was soon apprised of this advance of Gen- 
eral Greene and knew it was a banter for battle. Indeed, 
it is said that General Greene caused a message to be 
communicated to his Lordship that he was ready to ac- 
commodate him if he was anxious to test his strength in ' 

Cornwallis immediately sent his baggage South, to 
Bell's mill, under the escort of Colonel Hamilton's regi- 
ment of loyalists and advanced to accept the American 
General's challege. 

The army of Cornwallis was small but every soldier in 
it was a disciplined veteran whose skill in arms had 
been ripened by long and arduous service. 

Its commanders were brave men, devoted to the crown, 
who had won renown on the continent and had been 
selected for their fitness to^nake this last and desperate 
attempt to crush the South and destroy the Confederation 
of the States. 

Cornwallis was 43 years old, his judgment was mature, 
his strength unimpaired and he was ambitious to a fault. 

Unscrupulous in his conduct, cruel in his oppressions, 
he was an implacable and relentless foe. Disappointed in 
his pursuit of Morgan, he had burned his heavy baggage 
and destroyed every incumbrance to his march, at Rani- 
sour's mill, and, stripped oi almost every comfort, he 
had plunged forward after Greene with a blind fury which 
was foreign to his phlegmatic temperament; but neither 
fury nor courage nor privation availed against the watch- 
ful genius of his skilful antagonist. lie was now com- 
pelled to fight in an enemy's country, where he declared 
he had "not beenabletogainoneloyalrecruit." Without 
transportation ami with a scant supply of ammunition, 
he determined, with an obstincy characteristic oi the 
man, to risk his reputation as a General and the lives and 
safety of his army in this last desperate struggle. Mis 
force hardly reached two thousand men, including the 
remnant of Tarleton's Legion which participated but 
little in the battle. He had Generals O'Hara, Howard 
and Leslie, all distinguished officers, an 1 that Prince of 
soldiers, Lieutenant Colonel Webster of the 23rd, to 
execute his purposes. I he 33rd had been the regiment 
of his Lordship and under his eye they were ready to 
dash at any foe. Idle 23rd, the Welsh Fusiliers, of which 
the Prince of Wales was by courtesy of his rank the 
Colonel, and commanded by Webster, constituted with 
the 33rd a brigade unexcelled by any corps 111 the world 
of equal number. 

I hese were on his left, supported by the second bat- 
talion of the Queen's Guards under Lieutenant Colonel 
James Stuart — a gallant but unfortunate soldier. 

( )n ins right were the Seventy-first Scotch Highlanders, 
enthusiastic and dashing, with whom were the hireling 
mercenaries of the elector of Hesse Cassel, coarse and bru- 


tal, without principle or sentiment, they were the irre- 
sponsible slaves of the tyrants who led them to battle and 
slaughter and received so much money per capita for all 
who were slain, thereby making profit out of carnage. 

These were supported by Lieutenant-Colonel Norton, 
of the first battalion of British Guards. 

The artillery under McLeod moved in the centre along 
the New Garden road, with Tarleton's Legion in their 
rear and the Grenadiers and Yagers on their flanks for 

This was the order of battle formed by the British 
commander in the valley of Horsepen Creek, which is in 
sight, half a mile west of where we stand. It was at 
noon when their scarlet uniforms and burnished arms 
were glistening in the sunlight of that beautiful day. Not 
a furrow had been turned in the fields, not a bud was 
yet seen on the trees nor a flower in the valleys; but the 
first warm sunshine of spring was beginning to cast its 
fays upon the earth and enliven nature into activity again 
after a dreary winter of repose. It was not a day that 
suggested the conflict of arms or shedding of blood; but 
rather the lassitude of peace and the dreaminess of rest. 
But war, like death, "has all seasons for its own," and 
places its iron hand upon ever}' scene of beaut) - and 
loveliness without consideration or remorse. 

The last remnant of the Continental army in the South 
was now arrayed in front of the British commander and he 
fondly hoped that its rout or captivity would be succeeded 
by the fall of Virginia and the subjection of the States. 

It was a supreme moment in the life of Cornwallis and 
the crisis of the revolution. This victory won, there was 
no foe to obstruct his passage into the defenceless prov- 
ince of Virginia; North Carolina would be at the mercy 
of the crown, and Georgia and South Carolina, already 
prostrate and subdued, could never rally for defence again. 


Should Greene be beaten, Cornwallis could take up his 
triumphal march to the sea to be welcomed by the En- 
glish fleets which rode unchallenged in the harbors of 
Norfolk and New York. 

The prisoners of war at Charlottesville, Virginia, would 
be set free to plunder and pillage their captors. France, 
capricious and fickle, would forsake the waning fortune of 
the colonies, and making peace for herself, leave her 
allies to their fate. Washington would be crushed by the 
arm}' of Clinton in his front and that of Cornwallis in 
his rear, or be driven into the frozen regions of the North 
for refuge. Congress would be scattered from its halls 
and carry dismay wherever the)' fled for safety. 

These were the precious hopes and dazzling visions 
that stimulated the ambition and nerved the hand of 
Cornwallis for the battle now before him. The greater 
the odds against him, the greater would be the glory of 
his triumph and the more important its results. 

Not only hope and glory allured him to battle but re- 
taliation and revenge rankled in his breast and drove him 
to desperate deeds. llis Lieutenants, Ferguson and 
Tarleton, had been defeated and humbled by the militia 
of North Carolina whom they despised, and British pride 
demanded that the insult be avenged. 

Every officer and soldier remembered King's Mountain 
and Cowpens and were eager to wipe out the disgrace of 
those disastrous fields. 

Nothing but news of misfortune had gone to Clinton 
from the army of invasion since the frosts of October, 1780, 
had chilled their zeal, and the great rival of Cornwallis 
was secretly gloating oyer the misfortunes of his personal 
and political enemy. 

The recovery of prestige and the restoration of royal 
confidence added a powerful incentive to the achievement 
of victory. 


Cornwallis resolved, threfore, that "lie would conquer 
or die" on this- field, and the reckless exposure of his 
person during the battle indicated the determination with 
which he entered the conflict. 

None the less was the appreciation of the American 
army and its officers of the decisive crisis which was now 
upon them. 

General Greene, the confidential friend and trusted 
counselor of Washington, had been selected by him as 
the Commander in Chief of the Southern Department of 
the American army. Their friendship had begun at 
Boston with the first enthusiastic outburst of the revolu- 
tion and had steadfastly matured in the camp and the 

"The order of the Commander in Chief, which assigned General 
Nathanael Greene to the command of the Southern Department, 
bears date the 14th of October, 17S0. Until that period, his stand- 
ing in the army was of the first order in respectability; he enjoyed 
the cofidence of Washington and of the country, and had ever dis- 
charged the duties of the man and the soldier with fidelity and abil- 
ity. But no opportunities had yet been afforded him of displaying 
those eminent talents which then broke upon the American people, 
and exhibited a splendour of military character excelled only by him 
whom none can equal. 

" He was at that time in the thirty-ninth year of his age. His 
stature about five feet, ten or eleven inches; his frame vigorous and 
well proportioned ; his port erect and commanding; nor was his 
martial appearance diminished by a slight obstruction in the motion 
of his right leg, contracted in early life. The general character of 
his face was that of manly beauty. His fair and florid complexion 
had not entirely yielded to the exposure of five campaigns-; nor was 
a slight blemish in the right eye observed, but to excite regret that 
it did not equal the benevolent expression and brilliancy of the left. 
Such is the portrait of General Greene." — Johnson, Vol. 2, p. 1. 

Washington, himself in need of reinforcements, had 
reduced his own army to the last degree of weakness to 


strengthen Gates, and had nothing to give the South but 
a skillful General and a pure patriot, whose personal influ- 
ence and military reputation might arouse the martial 
spirit of his department and enable him to create an 
army for defence. lie came clothed with power almost 
dictatorial, and with an undaunted spirit entered on the 
work ot his mission. lie found a few soldiers at Char- 
lotte, naked and hungry. He led a portion ot them t<> 
the fertile fields of the Yadkin where he rested them in 
comfortable cabins in the forest. 

By entreat}' and seizure he obtained for them a scant 
supply of clothing and an abundance of food. 

Their desponding spirits were revived; their physical 
strength was regained and once more the)' felt like sol- 
diers struggling tor freedom. Greene mingled daily with 
his men, encouraging and instructing them, bringing 
them together for acquaintance, mutual confidence 
might be established. 

Discipline and drill were rigidly enforced, guns re- 
paired, ammunition gathered and every preparation, that 
the resources ot the country afforded, was made for the 
campaign which he expected to open in the early spring. 

These were the men who were suddenly summoned in 
the very depths of winter to leave their camps and cabins 
to protect the retreat of Morgan, who was flying before 
the whole British army. 

riie)- were veteran soldiers, though their numbers did 
not exceed 750 men. They had heard of the splendid 
victor}' ot their comrades at Cow pens and were impatient 
to emulate them in deeds of glory. To the victors of 
the Cowpens, and soldiers of the camp, was added the 
second Maryland regiment, a new levy of regulars, who 
were as yet untrained ami inexperienced, and the regi- 
ment of Colonel Green of Virginia of the same class of 
troops. These constituted the Continental line, i4gostrong. 


To these were added about <So cavalry and So infantry 
of Lee's Legion — a corps of picked men from the veter- 
ans of the Northern arm}', of whom about 20 were \ r ir- 
ginians, including their Lieutenant Colonel. 

Colonel Washington's cavalry numbered about 90 men, 
recruited here and there in the Carolinas. To these were 
added a fine company of cavalry from North Carolina, 
which was led by the Marquis of Bretigny, a French 
nobleman, who had trained them to arms. They num- 
bered 40 select men and were an honor to North Carolina 
and the Captain who led them. 

There was still another class of soldiers who came to 
participate in this battle for liberty, the Volunteer Militia, 
as distinguished from the general levy. Men wdio were 
not compelled nor hired to fight. They were patriots 
from honor and principle, generally of the intelligent 
and religious classes who came voluntarily to offer their 
lives and fortunes, if need be, as sacrifices to their coun- 
try. The}' had calculated the danger and taken the risk 
and in their zeal and courage and noble impulses were a 
formidable and dangerous enemy. 

The State was without muskets or ammunition; but 
each of these volunteers shouldered his hunting rifle and 
went to the field of battle. Generally they elected their 
own leaders who fought with the rifle as did the soldier 
by his side. It was the Volunteer Militia who alone 
fought the battle of Kings Mountain and won the battle 
Cowpens. They were all experienced in Indian warfare 
and accustomed to the hardships of the camp. All of 
them shot the rifle with unerring aim and steady hand. 
Their courage was unflinching and their hearts were 
devoted to liberty. They came from the mountains and 
foothills of Virginia and North Carolina. 

Greene had been promised by Colonel William Camp- 
bell, of Virginia, that he would bring: to his assistance 


one thousand of these hardy "over-mountain men" and 
that the heroes oi Kings Mountain should accompany 

Cornwallis had declared that he would hang Campbell 
in retaliation lor the execution oi the tories at Gilbert- 
town, it he ever captured him, and Campbell had notified 
Cornwallis that his riflemen would shoot his Lordship as 
law ful game, wherever the}' found him. The two horses 
shot under the British commander showed how nearly 
they fulfilled the threat. 

Hut Colonel Campbell was doomed to disappointment 
in raising the force he contemplated. Cornwallis, appre- 
hending the danger from the riflemen of' the mountains, 
had early after his arrival in the up country sent emissa- 
ries among the Cherokees with presents and falsehoods 
to stir them up to invade and plunder and desolate the 
frontiers. This same Cornwallis, whom Colonel Lee, in 
his exuberance of generosity, has called the "amiable 
Cornwallis," was as destitute of humanity or mercy as 
the savage whom he incited by deception and fraud to 
these deeds of cruelty. lie was newer "amiable" until 
the blood of his own men was made to atone for their 
cruel deeds by the victors at Kings Mountain. 

In February, [781, the Cherokees invaded the frontiers 
of North Carolina and Virginia, and the over-mountain 
men under Shelby, Sevier and Colonel Arthur Campbell 
[the brother-in-law of Colonel William Campbell] had 
embodied all their forces to repel them. 

Their hands were full, resisting the tomahawk and 
scalping knife and torch which the "amiable Cornwallis" 
had placed in the hands of the savage for their destruc- 
tion. Colonel William Campbell, in the bitterness of dis- 
appointment, had to report to General Greene on the 7th 
of March, with only 60 followers, but "one blast from his 
bugle horn were worth a thousand men." The author of 

2 9 

the "Rear Guard of the Revolution," an avowed and un- 
principled enemy of North Carolina, may perhaps be 
quoted as a witness when he permits his enmity and 
malignity to speak a word of truth for the State. 

He states that General Greene had written Sevier re- 
minding him of his glorious deeds at Kind's Mountain 
ami earnestly urging him to come to his aid with all the 
mountaineers he could muster. These appeals fell on 
willing ears but Sevier's hands were tied — his men had 
now again to fight for their own homes and firesides. 

"However, he despatched a small force under Charles 
Robertson to General Greene and they soon after gave a 
good account of themselves at Guilford." These men 
were from Sullivan count}', North Carolina, which county 
Sevier often represented in the Legislature of this State. 

Ramsey, in his Annals of Tennessee, page 251, also 
says that in response to Greene's earnest entreaties "a 
few of the pioneers of Tennessee were under his (Greene's 
command) at the hardly contested battle of Guilford Court 
House." I beg that this fact be noted because no official 
report of General Greene, or his Adjutant General, pro- 
fesses to give an account of the volunteer forces in the 
action and we can only get credit for what is due North 
Carolina by these little incidents of history casually 
mentioned by authors who received it from the soldiers 
of that day, f or from tradition in their families. 

Here then was undoubtedly a small body of as good 
soldiers and hardy riflemen as "ever drew a bead on a 
red-coat" — perhaps one hundred strong, all North Caro- 

Would it be invidious to suggest, as Colonel William 
Campbell lived in the county of Virginia contiguous to 
Sullivan and Washington, North Carolina, that for the 
time these men placed themselves under his command, 
while his own fellow-citizens were absent fighting the 


Indians, and that these constituted the mountain-men 
with whom Campbell reported to Greene. 

Tin's swapping of men on the border was an every day 
occurrence where but little attention was paid to general 
laws defining military boundaries. The population was 
sparse, inter-married with each other, far from the central 
government and were a 'daw unto themselves," in both 
a military and civil capacity. 

At any rate, here were North Carolina riflemen in the 
battle for whom no historian has given us credit. Let us 
estimate them .it [oo men. Johnson's Life of Greene, the 
author oi which was unkindly disposed to North Caro- 
lina, relates that on the day of Pyle's defeat, the 26th 
day ot February, [781, "two small detachments of about 
100 men each, under Majors Winston and Armstrong" 
joined the command of Pickens. This you will note was 
oid_\- [8 daws before the battle and we learn from Colonel 
Lenoir's narrative, in his application for a pension, under 
the act of [832, that this force, with which he was con- 
nected were with Pickens up to the 7th of March, when 
he joined Greene, and that Lenoir being clerk of the 
Court, at that time, of Wilkes count)', and the week for 
court having arrived, he obtained leave of absence for 
six weeks, leaving his comrades with Greene. They 
were to seiwe, therefore, for six weeks longer which 
placed them in service far beyond the battle. If con- 
firmatory testimony were necessary we have the direct 
testimony of Lyman C. Draper, who gives the biography 
of Major Winston in his just and admirable book entitled 
"Kings Mountain and its Heroes." He states positively 
that Winston was present and "shared with Greene the 
fortunes of Guilford Court House." 

It is not only true that these riflemen of Surry were 
present but the) - were the very last to leave the field 
after Tarleton's final charge which dispersed the Ameri- 


can forces on the left; for in that charge Tolliafferro "of 
Surry was killed" and Jesse Franklin, afterwards Gover- 
nor of North Carolina and United States Senator from 
this State, made a very narrow escape. The narrative 
of these occurrences is given by Caruthers, in his sketches 
of North Carolina, Second Series, upon the authority of 
the present Judge Jesse Franklin Graves, a grandson of 
Governor Franklin, than whom no better man or purer 
Judge now adorns the bench of the old North State. 

Here now were two hundred more Volunteer riflemen 
from North Carolina who did not figure on the military 
rolls of Greene's Adjutant General. 

Major Joseph Winston was the Major of the militia of 
Surry county as we learn from his title and rank at Kings 
Mountain; exactly how his comrade in arms, Major 
Armstrong, obtained his title or what was his christian 
name we cannot ascertain now with certainty, as there 
were two of the Armstrongs from Surry who bore them- 
selves gallantly in the revolutionary war. Most probably 
it was John Armstrong who was afterwards distinguished 
in the Legislature from 1782 to 1784. 

No officer had been more distinguished for courage 
and fortitude at Kings Mountain than Major Winston. 
He led the van of attack on the right and by his heroic 
daring conducted his men straight forward to the British 
camp without faltering or temporal')- retreat." 

Pie was an educated gentlemen, of patriotic impulses, 
early devoted to the cause of liberty and a soldier of 
uncommon merit. He survived to represent his county 
in the State Senate and his district in the Congress of the 
United States. One of the wealthiest and most attrac- 
tive cities of the State bears his name. 

Another patriot band from Guilford county is to be 

* Ramsey's Tennessee, p. 235-6. 


added to the riflemen of Surry and the over-mountain 
men of Sullivan. 

When the junction oi Morgan's and Greene's forces took 
place at Guilford Court I rouse on the toth day of February, 
1781, they found there 200 men from Guilford county, 
armed with rifles, under the command of Colonel James 
Martin, at that time Colonel of the militia. 

In the council oi war held here General Greene re- 
luctantly submitted to the majority of his officers, who 
opposed giving Coj'nwallis battle, and the conclusion of 
the majority, to retreat over the Dan, was adopted. The 
Guilford militia under Martin were not compelled to leave 
the State but about 100 of them volunteered to follow 
the fortunes of Greene's arm)- wherever it led them and 
to remain till the British were driven from the State. 
Thenceforth they belonged to the patriot band of volun- 
teers. Nearly all of these men were Scotch -Irish Pres- 
byterians, belonging to the churches of Alamance and 
Buffalo of which Rev. David Caldwell, 1). \)., was pastor. 
rile)' were of the better class of citizens, who were in- 
telligent enough to understand the principles which were 
involved in the struggle for liberty, and men of property 
sufficient to give them interest in the result. The)' had 
inherited from their church and ancestry the principles 
of civil liberty and the courage to maintain those principles. 

They were no hireling mercenaries nor substitutes, no 
drafted militia, but manly .patriots who came to contend 
for liberty or to shed their blood, if need be, in its 

The\' had been Whigs from the beginning of the strug- 
gle, and following the doctrines inculcated by their dis- 
tinguished pastor had steadfastly adhered to the cause 
of independence. 

Most of them had been sympathizers with the "Regu- 
lators" in the inception of that movement when its 


objeects were lawful and just, but had not adhered to 
their fortunes when they ran into excess and licentious- 
ness under the leadership of Herman Husbands and 
others. They were willing to resist the payment of ex- 
tortionate fees to sheriffs and clerks, but they would not 
endorse the dishonest resolutions that no taxes nor debts 
should be paid. 

When the legitimate struggle for liberty came they 
were still Whigs and rebels; but found many of those who 
had gone to excess as regulators, fighting them, on the 
British side, as tories; mostly those who had been par- 
doned by the Crown and seduced by blandishments and 
office to forsake the principles they had avowed. 

These one hundred Guilford county men, Volunteer 
soldiers, had been marching and countermarching with 
General Greene, and when the 15th day of March came 
it found them in line of battle, as a separate organization 
under the command of Arthur Forbis, a ruling elder of 
the Alamance Presbyterian church. 

He had been elected Captain by the men of Alamance, 
the Wileys, Paisleys, Gillespies, Montgomerys and others, 
whose names I do not know, but on the eventful day of the 
battle here, Colonel James Martin was assigned to other 
duty and the captaincy of this ' 'Centurions Band" devolved 
upon Forbis. He yielded up his life for the cause and 
from that day forth, as Colonel James T. Morehead has 
so happily described it, "He was brevetted as Colonel 
by the unanimous voice of his fellow-citizens," and has 
gone into the annals of history as Colonel Arthur Forbis 
of Guilford. 

These men fought under the eye of Lieut-Colonel Lee, 
and he has so far relaxed his predjudices as to say that 
they refused to fly before the British bayonet and adhered 
to the command of Campbell throughout the bloody 
conflict on the left. 


So that of the Volunteer soldiers, who fought so gal- 
lantly here on this day, we have: 

Winston's Command ioo men. 

Armstrong's Command ioo men. 

Sevier's Men, under Robertson ioo men. 

The Men of Guilford ioo men. 

North Carolina Cavalry 40 men. 

Total 440 men. 

For whom North Carolina has heretofore received no 
credit, owing to the fact that they were not regular sol- 
diers and did not appear on the muster rolls of the army. 

There was still another indefinite number of North 
Carolinians, volunteers, who fought under Greene that 
day. About the 10th of March, General Greene detached 
Pickens and his Brigade of North Carolinians to the 
Yadkin to collect a force in the rear of Cornwallis. Their 
time had expired, but a number of these men, perceiving 
that a pitched battle was imminent, determined to remain 
and share the fortunes of the American Commander. 

Among this number was Abram Forney, of Lincoln, 
a prominent citizen of that county, whose testimony to 
an incident of this battle I shall hereafter use, and 
Caruthers names a dozen citizens of Guilford and the 
surrounding counties who shouldered their rifles and 
marched to the Court House when the)" heard that Gen- 
eral Greene had advanced to that point. When asked, 
"Where are you going?" the response was, "To the big 
Shooting Match," and if space were allowed for humor I 
could relate how well and how often they "drove the 
centre" on that day. 

We ma}' safely and justly assert that North Carolina 
had at least 500 Volunteer Riflemen in this field of battle. 
Hereafter we shall show their positions and their conduct. 

Virginia had her volunteer soldiers too. Colonel Wil- 
liam Campbell, he of Kings Mountain, towered above 


them all. He had but few personal followers, but his po- 
sition, experience and skill entitled him to the command. 
He had 60 men when he united with Pickens on the same 
day that Winston and Armstrong did. Colonel Lynch, 
with his riflemen two hundred strong, came also, and 
Captain Thomas Watkins, with a company of cavalry, 
one of whom was the giant, Peter Francisco, so well 
known in Virginia history — in all perhaps 40 men* — the 
whole aggregating about 600 volunteers. 

These were divided, as we shall see, on the right and 
left flanks. 

Colonel Lee refused to allow Captain Watkins to join 
his Legion because they were not well enough dressed; 
but Washington, who was the old "Rough and Ready" 
of his day, gladly gave them welcome and they fought 
like Turks under his command. 

The militia was the third class of troops in Greene's 
army. The North Carolina militia, composed, as we 
have incidentally stated, of two brigades. The old 
honest regulator, General John Butler, of Orange, who 
had spent his life fighting against British oppression, com- 
manded one Brigade of 500 men, and General Eaton, of 
Halifax, commanded the other — the whole about i,ooomen. 

The Virginia militia were commanded by Generals 
Stevens and Lawson, both of whom had been regular 
soldiers. In Stevens' command were about 600 veterans 
who had seen three years service under Washington and 
many of whom were now hired substitutes for drafted 
Virginians. These two brigades have been variously 
estimated at from 1,200 to 1,900 men — perhaps the mid- 
dle is the safe ground, about 1,650 men. 

The artillery force consisted of sixty men and four six 
pounder brass pieces of cannon. They were under the 
command of Major Singleton. 
* Foote's Sketches of Virginia, First Series, p. 403. 

After a careful and patient research among the various 
authors who have described the battle I believe the above 
to be a true statement of the number and class of troops 
under General Greene's command on that day, the whole 
number being about five thousand one hundred and forty 
[5,140] men of all arms. Cornwallis estimate 1 the Amer- 
icans at 7,000, but this is an exaggeration. Colonel Lee 
says about 4,000, but the truth, as usual, lies in the middle. 

There was one North Carolinian more, whose name 
deserves the encomium bestowed upon it. 

Colonel William Richardson Davie was at this time 
General Greene's Commissary-General. He was then 
but twenty-five years old and yet his brilliant and dash- 
ing career had given him renown as a soldier. He was 
a young lawyer at Salisbury when the tocsin of war was 
sounded. His fortune was not large but he spent it all 
to equip a company of cavalry which he led against the 
enemy. He was the most successful partisan leader of 
his State and had struck terror into the British outposts 
and exhibited a daring at Charlotte, in facing the army 
of Cornwallis, that made him the center of attraction 
in the whole army. General Greene discovering his 
genius and power offered him the position of Commissary- 
General, which at first he repelled with some impatience; 
but when the like promise was made to him that was 
made to Greene at the time he was appointed Quarter- 
Master-General of the arm>- of Washington, -that he 
might participate freely in the fighting, he yielded re- 
luctantly to the earnest request of General Greene to 
accept the office. He was in closer confidential rela- 
tions with General Greene than an)- officer of his army 
and this confidence continued to the end without abate- 
ment or cause for complaint. One who often fought by 
his side says: 

" Davie was not only distinguished as an intelligent but an in- 

" trepid soldier. His delight was to lead a charge; and possessing 
''great bodily strength, united with uncommon activity, is said to 
"have overcome more men in personal conflict than any individual 
"' in the service."* 

Another author (Moore) thus describes him: 

'•He was then fresh from hi=> law books and but twenty-five years 
of age. Tall, graceful and strikingly handsome, he had those graces 
of person which would have made him the favorite in the clanging 
lists of feudal da\s. To this he added elegant culture, thrilling 
eloquence and a graciousness of manner which was to charm in after 
days the gilded salons of Paris. His dauntless valor was supervised 
by a sleepless outlook against surprise." 

By his intrepid daring and fearless exposure of his 
person on every hand he encouraged the soldiers to firm- 
ness and fortitude, and set them an example which in- 
cited them to the discharge of duty. 

He lived to represent North Carolina in Congress, to 
become her Governor, to found her University and to 
represent the Nation at the splendid Court of Versailles. 

The order in which General Greene fought his troops 
was, as much as possible, an imitation of the arrange- 
ment of General Morgan at the Cowpens. It had proven 
emminently successful in that instance, though fought 
against a foe superior in numbers, in discipline and arms 
and it was but natural that General Greene should repeat 
the experiment when fighting the same foe under much 
more favorable circumstances. General Greene had no 
experience in the mode of Southern warfare and hav- 
ing great confidence in Morgan who had been brought 
up from boyhood to fight the Indians on the frontier, it 
was not strange that he should defer greatly to his 
counsel and advice. Morgan had been stricken down 
with rheumatism on the retreat from Cowpens and was 

* Garden's Anecdotes of the Revolution. 


compelled to seek rest and medical aid, but his affection 
for Greene and his ardent patriotism induced him to write 
to his commander, on the 20th of February, nearly a 
month before the battle, and surest to him how he 
should fight Cornwallis: "Put the militia in the centre" 
said he, with some picked troops in their rear with orders 
to shoot down the first man that runs, select the riflemen 
and fight them on the flanks under enterprising officers 
who are acquainted with this kind of fighting." 

Greene knew that Washington had disapproved this 
arrangement of troops. That he did not think that un- 
disciplined or inexperienced militia, without bayonets, 
who had newer been in battle, nor subject to the demoral- 
izing influence of a cannonade on raw troops, should be 
placed in front to receive the first and fiercest onset of 
regulars and veterans who had been converted into mili- 
tary machines by long discipline and arduous service. 
Washington's plan was to place his best troops in front 
and use the militia as a reserve. 

General Greene has also been criticised for placing his 
lines too far apart, so as not to be in supporting distance 
of eacli other. It was argued, therefore, that Cornwallis 
was not compelled to fight but one line at an}' one 
time and that he was superior to any one of the single 
lines. But it is reasonable and customary in all the 
affairs of human life, whether civil or military, to imi- 
tate that which has proven successful under like circum- 
stances before. We should not therefore be ready to 
condemn General Greene for following the example and 
advice of General Morgan because his victor}' was not so 
complete as Morgan's. Perhaps if Morgan had fought 
Cornwallis instead of Tarleton the result of Cowpens 
would not have been so decisive and glorious to the 
American arms; and it must also be carefully considered 
that the militia under Morgan were all volunteers who 


had been in main- battles on the frontiers and were but 
recently flushed with their magnificent victor}' at Kings 
Mountain. General Morgan too "was at that time the 
ablest commander of light troops in the world.""" 

General Greene, as we have heretofore stated, had 
selected this battle field on the iith of February, on his 
retreat, and he had now been here a whole day and sur- 
veyed the ground and roads in the vicinity anew and was 
familiar with every avenue of approach and escape. He 
had taken his field officers over the grounds and thor- 
oughly instructed them in the parts they were to act in 
the approaching conflict. 

The strongest reasons for the selection of this spot were: 

First. That the highways diverging from Guilford 
Court House afforded three lines of retreat in case of 
disaster, so that his army could not be totally routed or 
destroyed as was that of Gates at Camden. 

If the American left were turned, as it was, the retreat 
was open by the road going North to McQuistian's 
bridge; if the right flank were turned, the High Rock 
Road, running Northeast was an avenue of escape, or in 
the last resort the road going directly east to Hillsboro 
might be utilized. 

The second reason was that there was space enough, 
and strong positions in the forest, wdiere the militia could 
fight to advantage behind fences and trees as was their 
custom, and be able to protect themselves from the 
charge of cavalry. Nothing in the warfare of that day 
was so terrible to the minds of militia as exposure to 
cavalry, and especially when commanded by so brutal a 
butcher as Tarleton. 

With these considerations and hopes, General Greene 
formed his army, early in the morning of the 15th of March, 
into three lines of battle which I shall now endeavor to 
describe and point out to you as intelligently as possible. 

* Bancroft, Vol. 5, p. 480. 


To our right and west of where we stand, about 2<So 
yards, behind a rail fence, in the skirt of the wood, facing 
the field in front, which had been in corn the year before, 
were placed the North Carolina militia, about iooo strong; 
the left flank of General Eaton's brigade resting on the 
New Garden or Old Salisbury road, which is just to the 
rear of our stand, and the right flank of General John 
Butler's brigade resting on the same road and to the left 
and South of Eaton's brigade. The old broom sedge field 
which we see now, where Eaton stood, was in forest at that 
day. On the right flank of Eaton's brigade were placed 
Colonel William Washington's cavalry, the North Caro- 
lina Cavalry under the Marquis of Bretigny, Capt. Wat- 
kin's cavalry, Kirkwood's Delawares and a portion of 
Lynch's riflemen. 

On the left of Butler's brigade was Capt. Arthur Forbis 
with his Guilford county Volunteers, about ioo strong, 
and Colonel William Campbell's command consisting of 
Preston's volunteers from Virginia, Winston's and Arm- 
strong's Volunteer riflemen from Surry count}', North 
Carolina, Robertson's ioo men from Sullivan count)-. 
North Carolina, Colonel Campbell's 60 men and Lee's 
Legion. This Legion was recruited as picked men from 
the whole Northern army, and now 7 numbered about one 
hundred and sixty men, about equally divided as cavalry 
and infantry. 

Both these flanking, or covering parties, were in a line 
oblique to the militia, so as to give a raking fire upon the 
British flanks as they approached. Campbell's line was 
nearly perpendicular to the North Carolina militia on the 
left and was also behind a fence skirting the wood. 

In the New Garden road, between Eaton's left and 
Butler's right, were placed two six pounder brass pieces 
under the command of Major Singleton. 

The second line was parallel to the first, very nearly 


three hundred yards to the east of it, and just about where 
this stand is now located. 

General Lawson's brigade was on the north side of the 
New Garden road, with its left resting upon it. General 
Stevens' brigade was on the south side, with its right 
resting on the road. 

In the rear of this second line, by the advice of Mor- 
gan, Genera] Stevens had placed a row of riflemen, called 
sentinels, with orders to shoot down the first Virginia 
militiaman who deserted his post. This weakened the 
force of riflemen in front, who were to fight the enemy, 
and transformed them into an enemy's line in the rear, 
rhe orders to fire on every recreant soldier were very 
positive. General Stevens had witnessed the shameful 
stampede <^( his men, "without firing a shot," at Camden 
in tlie August before, and had determined to arrest an- 
other such disgrace here. To this sanguinary order is 
perhaps attributable the slightly greater loss in the bat- 
tle of the Virginia, over the North Carolina militia. How 
many of the Virginians were shot down by these senti- 
nels is not reported. The order, however, must have 
been rigidly enforced on Stevens' side of the road, for 
his command fought longer and better than Lawson's. 

The third line of battle was formed about 350 yards to 
our left, and east of us in the old field to the north of the 
New Garden road. It was composed of four regiments, 
the left, or Second Maryland regiment, commanded by Col- 
onel Ford, resting on the New Garden road near where it 
crosses the rivulet. On its right, in a line oblique to the 
highway, and following the slope of the hill, was the First 
Maryland under Colonel Gunby. These two regiments 
formed the Maryland Brigade under the command of 
Colonel Otho Williams. On the right of the First Mary- 
land was Colonel Hawes' regiment of Virginians. To its 
right was Colonel Green's regiment of Virginians, the 


two forming a brigade under General Huger, of South 
Carolina. On the right of the First Maryland and be- 
tween it and the left of Hawes' regiment, at the point of 
the line, were two more brass six pounders under Lieut. 

In the earl\- morning Colonel Lee, with his Legion and 
a detachment under Campbell, had been sent forward, 
west, on the New Garden road, to feel the enemy and 
give notice of his advance. A very sharp engagement 
soon followed between Lee and Tarleton, at New Garden 
meeting house, in which Lee was unhorsed, but it was not 
long before Lee was compelled to retreat before the ad- 
vance of the whole English army. He advised Greene of 
the advance of Cornwallis, and then took his place in the 
wood near to and in the rear of the line of Volunteers 
under Forbis. 

General Greene was at this time at the front line and 
there received the news of the coming battle. 

He again imitated the example of General Morgan at 
Cowpens by riding along his front line of militia and 
exhorting it to a firm discharge of duty. 

The scene is thus depicted by George Washington 
Greene in his Biography of his Grandfather, vol. 3, p. 

"When these arrangements were completed General Greene passed 
along the first line. The day was hot, and holding his hat in one 
hand, he was wiping the perspiration from his ample forehead with 
the other. His voice was clear and firm as he called his men's at- 
tention to the strength of their position and, like Morgan at the Cow- 
pens, asked only three ronnds. " Three round?, my boys, and then you 
may fall back." "Then taking hisposition with the Continentals he 
held himself in readiness to go wherever his duty might call him." 

The only error in this statement is in the number of 
rounds required of the militia before they were to fall 


All historians agree that Morgan only required two 
rounds instead of three. Garden, who was one of Lee's 
Legion and heard the speech says: 

" The Xorth Carolina militia were assured by General Greene 
that if they would only preserve their station long enough to give 
their enemy two fires they should obtain his free permission to re- 
tire from the held. — Garden's Anecdotes, p. 40." 

Gordon's History, Vol. 4, page 55, has also this lan- 

" General Stevens had the address to prevent his brigade from 
receiving any bad impression from the retreating Xorth Carolinians 
by giving out that they had orders to retite after discharging their 
pieces. To cherish this idea he ordered his men to open their riles 
to favor their passage." 

It is evident that General Stevens and his whole com- 
mand were apprised of the order to the Xorth Carolina 
militia 'as they should have been,; to prevent surprise 
ami panic in their ranks by the retreat ol the Xorth Caro- 
linians in their front. Gordon affects to believe this was 
a ruse of General Stevens but in this he is manifestly in 
error. The order was given just as General Stevens 
communicated it to his command. 

Rev. L. W, Caruthers, D. D., who wrote the life of Rev. 
Dr. David Caldwell in 1842, had been over the battle 
field of Guilford Court House very often in company with 
the soldiers who participated in the battle and had con- 
versed with many old people of the neighborhood who 
knew its history from their cotemporariesand was therefore 
familiar with the incidents and traditions of the battle. 
Robert Rankin, a member of the Buffalo church, often 
pointed out the different localities of the field, especially 
on the left where Rankin fought under Colonel Campbell 
among the Xorth Carolina riflemen. With this familiar 
knowledge of events, Dr. Caruthers assumes in his Life 


of Caldwell, as an established fact, known by everybody, 
that the militia were ordered to fire twice and then re- 
treat. Speaking of Capt. Forbis' command, page 236, 
he says: 

" They stood firm until they had fired twice, according to orders" 
Again he says: 

"They were placed in the front rank, stood firm and tired the 
number of times prsscribed in the general order. Forbis himself fired 
the first gun in that division, and killed his man " 

There are several incidental allusions to this "order" 
to fire twice and always as one of the unquestionable facts 
connected with the battle. 

It is not, however, emphasised because the Doctor was 
writing the biography of a minister of the Gospel and 
not a defence of the North Carolina militia and the order 
was only a collateral fact in the narrative. 

Subsequently, in 1S56, Dr. Caruthers, in his Sketches — 
Second Series — vindicated the North Carolina militia 
from the charge of inefficiency in the battle. 

G. W. Greene says it was communicated to him as a 
tradition. It was indeed a fact well known and often 
spoken of by old persons to succeeding generations, and 
it is incomprehensible that a fact so w r ell known and un- 
derstood should have been omitted, in his Memoirs, by 
Colonel Lee who must have heard it, for he was on the 
front line when the order was given. It is inexplicable 
that Johnson too, who had 'access to General Greene's 
correspondence and papers should have suppressed it, 
while he gives great prominence to the like order of Gen- 
eral Morgan at Cowpens. 

I have in my possession also an interesting letter from 
Captain James F. Johnson, of Charlotte, N. C, giving 
me the statement of Abram Forney, of Lincoln county, 


who remained for the battle after Pickens' brigade had 
gone Forney state- distinctly that it was " two rounds " 
and adds that his portion of the line obeyed the order 

There can be nothing settled by testimony more 
certainly than the fact that the North Carolina militia 
were, by the personal order of General Greene, directly 
instructed/,' ft re twice and assured that he required no 
more of them. And it is the failure to observe and 
state this all important fact that has placed these 
troops in a false light before their posterity. \\ hen we 
reflect for a moment, this order is so reasonable and 
natural that we cannot doubt the truth oi the assertion 
that it was given. We may suppose that Morgan's order 
was further imitated by advising that the fires be given 
" at fifty yards." 

Idle North Carolinians were armed with their hunting 
rifles. The_\' carried their powder in. a powder horn with, 
a charger attached. Their bullets and patching were in 
a pouch to their left side and the tallow to grease the 
patching under a spring in the stock of the rifle. To 
load a rifle required that the powder be measured in the 
charger and poured carefully into the small muzzle bore 
of the rifle, ddie patching was to be greased and placed 
over the muzzle and the ball placed upon it and pressed 
into the gun. A knife was then used to cut off the sur- 
plus patching. The ball was to be rammed down the 
gun with a ramrod which was then to be replaced in the 
thimbles along the barrel. The last operation was to 
prime the pan in the flint and steel lock before the rifle- 
man was read\- to fire upon his enemy. The operation 
required at least two or three minutes to perform it. 

If the British line were fired upon at fifty yards they 
could be over the intervening ground in less than fifty- 
seconds, or if at one hundred yards in one and a half 

■ 47 

minutes. So that unless the British line was repulsed in 
its advance by the deadliness of the fire they would he 
upon the militia before it was possible to load three times, 
or if the operation of loading were delayed, by trepida- 
tion, before they could fire t'wice. 

It is evident that General Greene, as well as every rea- 
sonable person, expected that the militia would give way 
whenever the bayonet did reach them; for against it they 
had no arm of defence nor discipline to beat it back. John- 
son well remarks in speaking of the terror of the bayo- 
net that " nothing but the absolute subjection of every 
human feeling to the restraints of discipline can dissipate 
the real or imagined terrors of such a • conflict " and Lee- 
has said that "to expose militia to such a charge, without 
discipline or arms to repel it, is murder." Therefore, Gen- 
eral Greene instructed them, so the}' could understand it, 
to fire until the bayonet did reach them, which he calcu- 
lated would be two rounds, and then to retire. To re- 
quire more of them, as Lee says, in discussing this mode 
of warfare, " would be murder." It would be to expect 
more of them than of the conquerors of Ferguson at 
King's mountain. 

The sequel will show that the North Carolinians diso- 
beyed no order in retreating before the bayonet, and that 
they performed the whole duty required of them that day, 
and if the day had gone as did Cowpens, the order of 
Greene to the militia would, most probably, not have 
been suppressed. 

General Greene, having now retired to the Continental 
line, exhorted the second Maryland, which was a fresh 
regiment, though regulars, to firmness and courage. He 
was no more on the front line and as to its conduct he 
could only afterwards speak from hearsay. 

It was not long until the fire from Singleton's guns upon 
the British column, as it came in view, across Horse-pen 


Crock, about half mile west of the line, announced the 
presence of the British Army. 

It made a rapid descent to the valley of the creek 
under cover of its artillery, which replied to Singleton's, 
and there " displayed " their line, to use the technical 
word of that period. Webster on the left and North 
and Leslie on the right and South ^f the road. 
Webster fronting Eaton's brigade an 1 Leslie fronting 
Butler's, The artillery in the road — the cavalry in the 
die rear. 

The second battali »n of British Guards under General 
( >'Hara being in reserve to Webster and the first battal- 
lion under Lieutenant-Colonel Norton in reserve to Leslie. 

The battle began first on the North of the road, where 
Baton's brigade was posted, the ground in their front, as 
you will perceive, is comparatively level and as the Brit- 
ish line came in fair, unobstructed view, first in that part 
of the field theyreceived the first fire at perhaps ioo yards 
distance, the militia being impatient to fire and to have 
time to reload their rifles before the English could push 
upon them with the bayonet. 

Colonel Tarleton, who was in the road, in the rear of 
Webster's brigade, and in full view of its advance against 
Eaton's brigade, thus describes the scene transpiring be- 
fore his eyes: 

"The order and coolness of that part of Webster's brigade which 
advanced across the open ground exposed to t/ie enemy's tire cannot 
be sufficiently extolled. The extremities were not less gallant, but 
were more protected by the woods in which they moved. The 
militia allowed the front Jine to approach within 150 yards before 
they gave their fire." 

Stedman, the English historian, who was the Commis- 
sary General of Cornwallis and was also a spectator of the 
scene, repeats this account of Webster's advance and 
vouches for Tarleton's general description of the battle. 


Colonel Leo, who know Stedman's character well and the 
incidents of the whole campaign, in correcting an uninten- 
tional error into which Stedman had fallen about the de- 
feat of Pyles, says: " I have acknowledged my conviction 

of Stedman's impartiality and respect for truth./ There- 
fore this account of Tarleton's comes endorsed by Sted- 
man, and Stedman's character is endorsed by Lee. 

This is a prominent and important fact, because if "the 
order and coolness of" Webster's brigade under the fire of 
the North Carolina militia cannot be "sufficiently extolled," 
the fire must have been very deadly and continuous. 

Tarleton and Stedman would not acknowledge the in- 
sufficiency of the English language to describe this charge 
unless it was made in the face of a galling and destruc- 
tive fire. The tribute to the "coolness and courage" of 
Webster's brigade involves the highest tribute to the 
firmness of the North Carolina brigade. 

Another English historian, Lamb, who was at that time 
an officer of the Thirty-third regiment and participated 
in this charge, has also quoted Tarleton's language with 
approbation, and in order to give further and greater em- 
phasis to the coolness and courage of Webster's brigade, 
he says: 

" As the author belonged to Colonel Webster's brigade, he is en- 
abled (and the reader will naturally expect it of him) to state some 
circumstances unnoticed by any historian, from his own personal ob- 
servation. After the brigade formed across the open ground, Col. 
Webster rode on to the front and gave the word, 'Charge. ' Instantly 
the movement was made in excellent order at a sharp run, with arms 
charged ; when arrived within forty yards of the enemy's line it was 
perceived that their whole force had their arms presented and resting 
on a rail fence, the common partition in America. They were taking 
aim with the nicest precision, 

"Twixt host and host but narrow space was left 

A dreadful interval, and front to front, 

Presented, stood in terrible array." 


" At this awful period a general pause took place: both parties 
surveyed each other a moment with most anxious suspense. Colonel 
Webster then rode forward in front of the Twenty-third regiment 
and said, with more than his usual commanding voice, which was 
well known to his brigade, "Come on, my brave Fusiliers!" This 
operated like an inspiring voice. They rushed forward amidst the 
enemy's fire — dreadful was the havoc on both sides." 

" Amazing scene ! 
What showers of mortal hail, what flaky fires !" 

" At last the Americans gave way and the^brigade advanced to the 
attack ot the second line."* 

Lamb wrote his work in 1809, after seeing other ac- 
counts of this battle and felt constrained to give his per- 
sonal recollections of this particular part <>i the engage- 
ment, because he was an active participant in it anil no 
other historian had described, the action in detail in that 
part of the field. This author is one of the highest re- 
spectability and is frequently quoted by American his- 
torians. In Carrington's "Battles ot the American Revo- 
lution," a standard work of recent date, copious quota- 
tions are made from Lamb. He is also quoted by George 
Washington Greene in his biography of the General. 
Lamb's work was published by subscription and among 
the list of subscribers are most of the noblemen and lit- 
eratti of his day. Lamb was a teacher in a High school 
in Scotland and a man of letters as well as a soldier. 

Can any- one doubt the truth of such a statement com- 
ing from a participant in the scene, who gives such em- 
phasis and particularity to details, and who is of unim- 
peachable character for truth and intelligence. 

I can safely rest the reputation of that part of the North 
Carolina militia, under General Laton, on these splendid 
tributes to their courage and firmness. 

It establishes the fact that they- had fired once and re- 
*Lanab's History of the American Revolution, p. S61. 


loaded and when the enemy were in forty paces were 
resting their rifles on the rails and aiming with the "nicest 
precision " at their foe. So appalling was their martial 
array that even the British veterans, who had faced so 
many dangers from Quebec to Camden, paused and 
stood aghast at the spectacle, and that only the magic 
voice of their commander, accompanied with Ids reckless 
exposure in their front, could prevail upon them to ad- 

The "havoc" was great, says Lamb, and we may well 
believe it. Riflemen who could take a squirrel's head 
from the highest tree would not be likely to miss a scar- 
let uniform at fort}- paces. 

In Foote's Sketches of Virginia, Second Series, p. 149, 
is a biography of the Rev. Samuel Houston, a Presbyte- 
rian minister, whose simple epitaph tells the story of his 
useful and honorable and pious life. 









Mr. Houston was a student at Lexington Academy but 
responded toa call for volunteers, and was one of General 
Stevens' command at this battle and kept a diary of his 
movements from February 26th to March 23rd, in which 


rae related man)- interesting incidents. He was fond of 
telling the story of this battle, and thus describes its 

"The Virginia line was in the forest, the Carolina militia pirtlyin 
the forest and partly in the skirt of the forest and partly behind the 
fence inclosing the open space, across which the British force was 
advancing with extended front. 

"According to ordt rs the Carolina line, when the enemy were very 
near, gave their fire, which on the left of the British line zoas deadly, 
and having repeated it, retreated. Some remained t-> give a third 
fire and some made such haste in retreat as to bring reproach upon 
themselves as deficient in bravery, while their neighbors behaved 
like heroes. " 

Here is a direct confirmation of Lamb's account of the 
"deadly fire'' of Webster's brigade, ami a positive asser- 
tion that the fire was " repeated," and that some remained 
to fire the third time, and that the}- acte 1 "according to 

That there was haste in the retreat when it began, is 
conceded, but no military man or intelligent reader oi 
the history of militia contests, would have expected it to 
be otherwise. Idle Virginians and North Carolinians, 
being undisciplined troops, were alike disorderly when 
retreating from the- field. Idle North Carolinians had 
done all the}' were commanded or instructed to do, and 
hastened to the rear where the}' were ordered to rally 
again. Air. Houston was frank' and just as well as truth- 
ful, for in describing the advance of the British on 
Stevens' brigade, after the North Carolinians retreated, 
he relates as the first fact occurring that "Our brigade- 
Major, Mr. Williams, fled." 

ddie Rev. J. Henry Smith, D. D., one of the most dis- 
tinguished ministers of the Presbyterian church in the 
South, and for twenty-five years pastor at Greensboro, has 
seen Mr. Houston in his old age and knew his character 


well, and testifies to the great esteem and reverence in 
which he was held byall whoknewhim. He wasoneof the 
leading spirits of the Presbyterian church in Virginia in 
his day. 

These men of North Carolina did their duty and after 
firing every shot possible, before the bayonet was upon 
them, obeyed orders, and retreated behind the second line, 
who were in readiness to give the enemy a similar recep- 

On Butler's side of the road the North Carolina militia 
and Forbis' Volunteers gave the British a bloody repulse. 
The Scotch Highlanders, a regiment of Leslie's brigade, 
rested its left on the New Garden road and therefore was 
immediately in front of Butler's militia, chiefly from 
Orange, Granville and Guilford. 

Captain Dugald Stuart who commanded a company in 
the 71st regiment (called "Scotch Highlanders") on that 
day, when writing to a relative in this country under 
date of October 25th, 1825, uses the following language: 

" In the advance we received a very deadly fire from the Irish line 
of the American army, composed of their marksmen, lying on the 
ground behind a rail fence. 

" One half the Highlanders dropped on that spot. There ought to 
be a very large tumulus on that spot where our men were buried."* 

This letter was written by Captain Stuart to a relative 
in Guilford county who had suggested that most of the 
Highlanders had been killed in the charge on the Con- 
tinental line and these particulars were given to correct 
that error. 

The centre of the State had among its population, at 
that period, many Irish and Scotch-Irish, and for that 
reason the militia line was called the Irish line. 

The tumulus to which Captain Stuart refers is no doubt 

*Caruthers' Sketches, Second Series, p. 134. 

; 4 

the large grave, sixteen feet square, and six feet deep, 
near the Hoskins' residence, which was filled with the 
dead of the English army, thus confirming Capt. Stuart's 
memory in regard to it. 

A further confirmation oi this positive statement of 
Captain Stuart is an extract from "Brown's History of 
the Highland Clans" as quoted by Caruthers. Vol. 2, p. 134: 

"The Americans covered by a fence in their front reserved their 
fire till the British were in thirty or forty paces, at which distance 
they openeda destructive tire, which annihilated nearly one-third of 
Webster's brigade." 

I he Highlanders, however, were under Leslie, instead 
of Webster, that day but joined Webster's left. 

The Hessians were opposed by the left of Butler's men 
and the Volunteers under Forbis. These latter, Lee re- 
luctantly confesses, were firm and never gave way except 
to sullenly and slowly retreat before the English bayonet 
and adhered to Campbell's command to the very last. 

It was a North Carolina rifle that brought down the 
first English officer in this battle. 

Colonel James Martin in his petition for a pension thus 
describes the scene: 

" I was posted on the front line with a company commanded by 
Captain Forbis, a brave, undaunted fellow. We were posted behind 
a fence and I told the men to sit down until the British who were ad- 
vancing, came near enough to shoot. When they came within about 
100 yards, a British officer with a drawn sword was driving up his 
men. I asked Captain Forbis if he could take him down. He said 
he could for he had a good rifle. I told him to let him come in fifty 
yards and then take him down, which he did. It was a Captain of 
the British army." 

It was stated by Peter Rife of Virginia, one of Lee's 
Leg-ion, to Caruthers, that he witnessed the fact with his 

own eyes, that the men of Alamance fired till the Hes- 
sians mounted the fence and then clubbed their rifles and 
fought them back, hand to hand. When asked if this 
was not done by Campbell's men, he replied indignantly, 
"No, it was the North Carolinians. I sat on my horse 
and saw them with my own eyes." 

There was deadly work there. At the foot of yonder 
ancient poplar, in full view of us, now sacred from the 
woodman's axe, fell that "brave, undaunted fellow" 
pierced by one bullet in his neck and another through 
his thigh, and by his side lay Thomas Wiley and Wil- 
liam Paisley, whose descendants still live among us. 

The granite monument at the foot of the poplar is the 
second raised to the memory of Capt. Forbis by his grateful 
countrymen. This noble patriot, after his fall, was pierced 
with a bayonet by a cowardly tory and lay upon the 
ground all night through the dreadful storm that ensued. 
He was found next day by Miss Montgomery and carried 
to his home on a horse. Refusing to submit to the am- 
putation of his leg, mortification took place and he died 
several weeks after the battle." 

It is perhaps a gratification to know that "Shoemaker," 
the Tory who thrust the bayonet through Forbis' body, 
was caught not long thereafter and was soon dangling at 
the end of a rope and died the death of a felon. 

With this record history of officers and privates on both 
sides, who participated in the battle, and the testimony 
of historians, who were observers of and actors in the 
scenes, I confidently submit that the North Carolina 
militia obeyed their orders to give two deliberate fires and 
retreat, and the omission to state this order, as both 
Johnson and Col. Lee have so unjustly done in their 
histories, has been the cause of the greatest wrong 
to North Carolina; but any North Carolinian who care- 

*Comniunieated to me by the family 

fully reads Johnson's numerous exposures of Lee's 
"surprising general inaccuracies" and observes the per- 
version of facts and the misrepresentations of history by 
Johnson, himself, in regard to North Carolina, will not be 
surprised at the unpardonable and unjust omission to 
state this order of General Greene. The omission, to an 
intelligent mind, seems, in the face of the testimony to be 
studied and intentional. lucre can be no reasonable 
excuse f< ir it. 

Lee has not hesitate.1 to indulge in vituperation in re- 
gard to the North Carolina militia, characterizing their 
retreat as "desertion ;" but when the Virginia militia fled 
from the field and left Greene's camp he speaks of 
Greene's army as being "reduced by the fliglit of the 
North Carolinians, and the voluntary and customary re- 
turn of the Virginia militia to their homes. Such effron- 
tery is refreshing and provokes a smile. 

North Carolinians, according to this, fled once audit 
was "desertion," but when the Virginians repeate 1 it so 
often as to become "customary" it was no longer dis- 

Idle fact is that a larger proportion of North Carolinians 
rallied after the battle,"''" than \ irginians. I quote from 
Rev. Mr. Houston's Journal of the i~th of March to show- 
how this "customary return to their homes" was made. 

"Saturday, the ijt/i. On account of the want of some of our 
blankets and some other clothing, many postponed returning-home, 
which was talked of, in general, in McDowell's batallion, till at last 
they agreed and many went oft": a few were remaining when Gen. 
Lawson came and raged very much : about 10 o'clock a//but McDow- 
ell came off." 

They left in the face of a "raging" officer's protest, 
ddus savors of "desertion" whether "customary" or not. 
* Johnson, Vol. l, p. 462. 


I do not make an attack on the Virginians, many of 
whom did their duty nobly on this field; but when we are 
traduced by invidious comparisons, it is due to history 
that the facts should be stated. Colonel Lee, himself, 
has been severely censured by Johnson for his conduct 
in this battle;- but I refrain from commenting upon 
charges which may be unjust to a man, who was one 
of the best partisan officers in Greene's command. I only 
strike in defence. 

Having digressed from the narrative in order to vindic- 
ate the truth of history and repel the aspersions on the 
North Carolina militia, I resume the story of the battle. 

When the militia gave way before the bayonet on the 
right, Webster pushed his advance in the forest but was 
met by a shower of bullets on his left flank, from Kirk- 
wood's Delawares and Lynch's Riflemen and was com- 
pelled to face the Thirty-third to the north and repel the 
assault, while the Twenty-third took position on the left 
made vacant by this move, and the Second Battalion of 
Guards under O'Hara filled the gap by filing in on the 
right of the Twenty-third and next to the road. 

On the south of the road, Leslie advanced rapidly into 
the forest for protection from the riflemen of Campbell, 
Winston, Armstrong and Preston on their right flank, and 
passed many of the riflemen, who fired deadly volleys 
upon them from flank and rear. So destructive was this 
fire that Lieutenant Colonel Norton, of the first battalion 
of guards, who was in reserve, came speedily into line 
and attacked the riflemen, while the Hessians under 
Dubuys were faced south and in a right angle to their 
first line and attacked Lee's Legion which was on Camp- 
bell's right. The conflict here was stubborn and hotly 
contested. The riflemen gave way to the bayonet, and 
reloading, returned to the charge, and firing from trees 
* Johnson, Vol. 2, p. 14-20. 


in every direction, soon routed the guards and drove 
them back to the skirt of the woods. 

The Hessians made more progress on Campbell's right 
and pressed the Volunteers 'back in the direction of the 
"Ross Residence," and the riflemen fell back with them. 
It was at this period oi the battle that Cornwallis, riding 
into the midst ol the Guards and leading them back to 
the charge, had his iron-grey horse shot under him at 
tlie spot now indica I by a very large persimmon tree, 
a few hundred yards in front of us, which still lives." 

It was by this combined charge ol the Hessians and 
the Guards that Campbell's men were driven south and 
entirely separated from the left flank of Stevens' brigade, 
upon which they >vere ordered to form in case of retreat. 
Cornwallis, leaving the Hessians to contend with the 
North Carolina and Virginia riflemen, recalled Norton, 
and with his Guards and the 71st Scotch Highlanders, 
charged Stevens' brigade, while Webster assaulted Law- 
son on the left. Lawson gave way early, as his troops 
were raw militia, and only lost one man killed. Wash- 
ington, however, protected their retreat and they swung 
around on their left into the forest in the rear oi Stevens 
to avoid the fields where Tarletoh might fall upon them, 
and thus made their way to the Court House. 

Webster, having driven Lawson from his front, and the 
flanking detachment under Washington having retired to 
the Continental line, the British moved along the left of 
the road rapidly, until they reached the Bruce road in 

'■Note.— Lamb relates the following incident as having occurred just after the 
retreat of Katun's brigade, on the north of the New Garden road. 

"On the instant, however, I saw Lord Cornwallis riding across the clear ground. 
His Lordship was mounted on a dragoon's horse, his own having heen stint, the 
saddle-hags were under the creature's belly, which much retarded his progress, 
owing to the vasi quantity oi underwood thai was spread over the ground; his 
Lordship was evidently unconscious of his danger. I immediately laid hold of 
the bridle of his horse and turned his head. I then mentioned to him that if his 
Lordship had pursued the same direction he would, in a tew moments, have been 
surrounded by the enemy, and perhaps cut to pieces or captured. I continued to 
run along the side ,,t' the horse, keeping the bridle in my hand, until his Lordship 
gained the 23rd regiment, which was at that time drawn up in the skirt of the 
woods."— p. 382. 


the edge of the old held about 300 yards to the east of 
us, where he discovered the Continental line across the 
ravine on the opposite hill. Flushed with victory and 
eager to lead the advance and complete the destruction 
of Greene's arm}-, Colonel Webster formed the Thirty- 
Third into line, the second battalion of Guards not being 
up, and with this regiment charged the Continentals. 

I'he first Maryland, under Colonel Gunby, received the 
charge with cool and determined courage, firing a deadly 
volley in the British line at fort}- paces, which mortally 
wounded Colonel Webster and threw them into con- 
fusion, then following their fire with the bayonet, as they 
did at Cowpens, the}- fell upon the enemy and com- 
pletely routed them, pursuing them back into the forest. 

General Greene, not knowing the fate of Campbell, 
who had been driven nearly a mile to the South, though 
still fighting, hesitated to advance his whole line, fearing 
that he might be cut off on his left flank, and therefore 
ordered the first Maryland to fall back to their original 

Here, Tarleton says, Greene lost the battle, by not 

following up this advantage and severing the British 

army in twain, but the distrust that Greene had of raw 

troops, induced him to choose the wiser and safer 

plan by which he could save his arm}- if he was com- 
pelled to retreat. 

While Gunby was retiring from the pursuit of Webster, 
Lieutenant Colonel Stewart, with the Guards (General 
O'Hara having been wounded) had arrived at the old 
field, and without waiting for orders, charged the second 
Maryland, under Colonel Ford, whose left rested on 
the rivulet at the foot of the hill. The second Maryland 
made but a feeble resistance and fled, but at this critical 
moment, the first Maryland struck the Guards on their 
left flank with the bayonet, and while they turned to 


resist this unexpected attack, Washington, who was on 
the hill, in the new Salisbury road, descended the slope, 
crossing the rivulet and charged the guards in the rear. 
The slaughter was terrific* 

Peter Francisco the giant, of Captain Watkin's Vir- 
ginia cavalry, killed eleven British soldiers with his 
terrible sabre. It was a valley of death and the Guards 
refusing to surrender were being cut down on every 
hand. Never soldiers fought with more desperation and 
courage than these devoted and gallant men. ( hie can- 
not read the story without admiration for their courage 
and devotion to the Crown. 

There Lieutenant-Colonel James Stewart came in con- 
tact with Captain John Smith, of the firstMaryland and they 
recognized each other as having crossed swords at Cow- 
liens. The duel was renewed. Stewart thrust at him 
with his sword, Smith parried it with his left arm and 
with his right swung aloft hi-- heavy sabre which in its 
descent cleft the skull of Stewart to the neck.t 

Conwallis, descending the hill, saw that a desperate 
remedy was necessary, and riding up to the artillery, 
which had now arrived at the Bruce Road, he command- 
ed MacLeod to open on the melee with grape shot. Near 

*Note.— The third escape from danger by Lord Cornwallis, took place, at the 
foot di' the steep hill jusl beyond the fork of the Bruce road, near the ancient 
white oak which still marks the spol . 

Cornwallis came down from his post where the Salisbury (New Garden) road 
enters to the hollow to see the condition of the battle, ami under the cover of the 
smoke, rode up to that old oak, just in the skirts of the fiery contest. Washington 
who had drawn off his troops, was hovering round to watch his opportunity for 
another onset and approached that same oak unperceived by his Lordship ; Stop- 
ping to beckon on his men to move and intercept the officer, then unknown to 
him, he happened to strike his unlaced helmet from his head. While he dis- 
mounted to recover it, a round of grape from the British artillery so grievously 
wounded the officer next in command to Washington, that incapacitating him to 
manage his horse, the animal wheeled around and carried him off the field, fol- 
lowed by the rest of the cavalry who, unhappily, supposed that the movement 
had been directed. Thus Cornwallis escaped. 

*Se ■ \;ip sn Ux B. 


the guns lay General O'Hara, the Brigade Commander 
of the Guards, bleeding with many wounds. He turned 
his pale face to the British Commander and begged that 
his brave soldiers should not be killed by their own guns; 
but Cornwallis was in desperate and dreadful earnest, 
and repeated the sanguinary order, while O'Hara hid his 
face in his hands and wept. The remedy was awful but 
effectual. The Americans were compelled to retreat and 
the few bleeding Guards that were left made their way 
out from the scene of carnage.* 

Greene reformed his line, placing the first two pieces 
of artillery in the New Garden road, with the First Mary- 
land on its right, then the other two six-pounders and in 
regular order Kirkwood's Delawares and Hawes and 
Green's Virginia regiments — the last forming the ex- 
treme right of the line. 

Washington's Cavalry was in the concave side of this 
semi-circular line, in the rear, so as to act as emergency 
might require. He was the ubiquitous and intrepid sol- 
dier, rough, but awful in combat, whose sabre had left its 
mark on Tarleton at Cowpens, and he was now panting 
to renew the conflict. 

" Col. Washington is described as being six feet in height, broad, 
stout and corpulent. Bold in the field, careless in the camp ; kind 
to his soldiers ; harassing to his enemies; gay and good humored, 
with an upright and a gensrous hand, a universal favorite." — Irving's 
Life of Washington, Vol. 4, p. 44. 

Cornwallis, under fire of his artillery and a musketry 
fusilade, formed his line anew. The Thirty-third had 

♦Note— Johnson also relates the narrow escape made by General Greene during 
the fight with the Continental line, as follows: 

" Such also had been the apprehensions for the consequencies of the defeat of 
the Second Battalion of the Guards, that the First Battalion had been ordered up 
from the left and had reached the Xew Garden road on which Greene was anxi- 
ously observing the progress of events. The bush on the roadside had so effect- 
ually concealed the advance of this corps from view that Gen. Greene had ap- 
proached within a few paces of them, when they were discovered by his aid, 
Major Morris, and pointed out to him. He had the presence of mind to retire in a 
walk ; a precipitate movement would, probably, have drawn upon him a volley of 


been rallied, the Twenth -third was in line with the 
Seventy-first and Xorton on its right and the few surviv- 
ors of the First Battalion of Guards, refusing to be held 
back, came also to the front. With the loss of the First 
Maryland, and knowing nothing oi the Tate of Lee 
and Campbell. General Greene determined not to risk 
his whole Continental line in a last desperate struggle 
but rather to retreat ami hold them strong and fresh as a 
nucleus, around which lie could gather his scattered 
militia ami organize for another battle it the enemy dared 
t< > advance. 

Throwing Green's regiment of Virginians, who had 
not yet been brought into action, in the rear, to cover his 
retreat, he withdrew across Hunting Creek and took tin/ 
road to Mc< >uistian's bridge on Reedy Fork. Cornwallis 
made a demonstration of pursuit, but a few shot< from 
Green's regiment am! a charge from the cavalry under 
Washington, caused Tarleton to halt and return to camp. 

ddie artillery was necessarily left in the enemy's pos- 
session as the horse- had all been killed and there was 
no way to carry off the guns. 

Idle fight with Campbell's men had been steadily kept 
up and the Hesians had been driven back in confusion, 
when Tarleton was sent to their aid. 

For some reason, hitherto unexplained, Lee withdrew 
his Legion and left Campbell and the North Carolina and 
Virginia riflemen exposed to Tarleton's cavalry and the)" 
were soon ridden down and compelled to disperse. ' Col- 
onel Compbell was greatly incensed at Lee's abandon- 
ment of the riflemen, and shortly after the battle retired 
in disgust from the army.""" 

Johnson says that Lee came to the Court House and 
was a spectator of the struggle in the old field between 
the British Regulars and the Continentals but never 
"Drapers's Kings Mountain and its Heroes, p. 394. 

offered assistance or made his presence known. He 
retreated by the High Rock road and his fate was un- 
known for twenty-four hours, until he rode into the 
American camp next day.t 

To Washington's cavalry, the North Carolina and Vir- 
ginia riflemen on the left, and the first Maryland regiment, 
with Kirkwood's Delaware's, are due the highest honors 
of this day so fruitful in all that constitutes victory to the 
American Arms. 

Greene halted three miles from the battle field for rest 
and to allow his stragglers to gather in. He was so 
prostrated with the long and arduous labors through 
which he had been passing for weeks that in this hour of 
relaxation he fainted from sheer exhaustion and for 
awhile was unconscious. He wrote his wife after the 
battle that he had not taken off his clothes for six weeks. 

Cornwallis, who had but little means of transportation, 
and a very scant supply of provisions and medicines, 
found his ammunition nearly exhausted and more than 
one-third of his force, over 600, killed or wounded. 
Stewart was cold in death, O'Hara and Howard wounded 
and sick, Webster, the pride of the army, valiant in 
battle and wise in council, had received a mortal wound, 
and the mournful spectacle of the dead and dying on 
every hand was enough to dishearten the British Com- 
mander. He gathered his wounded as best he could, 
and buried his dead, and realizing that his only safety 
now was in flight, he left the field on the 17th and, 
placing those of his wounded whom he could not trans- 
port, in care of the humane Quakers at New Garden 
Meeting House, he hastened to put the Deep River 
between him and his adversary and gave no rest to his 
feet until he reached the forks of that river, at Ramsey's 

t Jolmson, Vol. 2, p 20. 

6 4 

Mill. Here he could burn a bridge behind him on either 
stream as necessity required. From thence he fled to 
Wilmington, leaving the corpse of Webster in North 
Carolina, near Elizabethtown. He had died in passing 
through the town while swung in a litter between two 
horses. He literally died in the flight. 

The next morning after the battle, as was the English 
custom, Cornwallis sent his officers to the \~u\v prisoners 
he had captured with offers of liberty and money if they 
would join his service. The)' had been confined all that 
dreary, rain)', cold night in a rail pen, herded like cattle, 
and listened to these appeals with silence and sullenness. 
The}' were then told that the American army had been 
routed and Greene had lied from the State, but still these 
staunch old Whigs, drenched with rain and shivering 
with cold, maintained their stolid indifference. 

lust then the sound of the morning guns from Greene's 
camp came reverberating from the hills. 

An old Tar Heel wdio had squatted in a corner of the 
rail pen heard the familiar signal, and rising with a smile, 
ING AGAIN," and a shout of defiance went up from the 
rail pen that convinced the English officer that patriotism 
in the old North State was above the temptation of 
bribery or the intimidation of British power. 

ddiat "old cock" Xathanael Greene, and the "blue 
hen's chickens" around him continued to crow until Corn- 
wallis was admonished of his sins and his danger and 
prepared for flight. 

Eager to meet the American army which he had been 
pursuing for two months through mud and rain; thirsting 
for the glory of annihilating his foe, Cornwallis had 
marched out from his camp with fluttering banners and 
martial music to accept the challenge of the American 
General; he looked with pride on the veteran soldiers of 


his line and the splendid officers who led them: the half 
clad soldiers of the American army and the untutored 
militia of the State were contemptible in his eyes; the 
scene at Camden was to be repeated, the militia would 
flee at his approach, the Continentals would be outnum- 
bered and crushed and Tarleton would revenge the de- 
feat of Cowpens by putting the retreating masses to the 
sword. Greene would forsake the field and find a refuge 
in the mountains of Virginia and the Royal Government 
would be restored in North Carolina. 

These were the exultant visions that floated before his 
lordship's eyes as he gave the command "forward for 
Guilford Court House." 

He sought the American army and advanced upon the 
militia but he found them in " fort}- paces with their rifles 
resting on the rails and aiming with the "nicest precision " 
at his line, and the next moment there was "havoc" in 
Webster's brigade. He looked to the right and witness- 
ed haJfthe Highlanders drop; he galloped his charger into 
the midst of the fight but in a moment was unhorsed by 
the riflemen on the flank; in fury he rode to the valley 
where his guards were weltering in blood and returned 
to shoot them down in promiscuous carnage with his own 
guns, he called for Webster to lead the last charge for 
victory but found him in the hands of the surgeon; he 
looked for O'Hara and saw him bleeding at his side; to 
the inquiry for Gen. Howard came the response "wounded 
and carried to the rear;" gazing anxiously at the Guards 
who were emerging from the smoke and carnage under 
the hill, he missed the stalwart figure of Stewart, now 
stiff and cold in death. Still he hoped for the realization 
of his dreams when he saw the Americans turn from the 
field of blood and calling for Tarleton, he ordered him to 
charge the retreating foe. Tarleton came with a rifle 
ball through his hand, but was met by Green and Wash- 



ington and hurled back to his commander with disordered 

The visions of glory had vanished; the truth came 
rushing over his mind that the victor oi this battle was 
not the man who held the field, and that the ground on 
which he stood would soon become the scene of his cap- 
tivity if he tarried to rest his bleeding comrades. 

Greene had lost but three hundred and twenty [320] 
men and by the evening of the 17th, he found still around 
him 1 $50 Continental soldiers, more than 1 500 militia and 
the 600 riflemen, and on the [ 8th, began the pursuit of 
the British commander. 

An American officer relates that his compassion was 
so excited by the pitiable condition of the English army 
that he had no heart to strike them a blow. The road- 
side was strewn with the dead who had vainly tried to 
drag their wounded bodies along with the retreating 

The march was tracked by the blood that flowed from 
the wounds of those who were borne in litters, and here 
and there a soldier, wounded and forsaken, begged for 
mercy and protection. When pressed in their camp at 
Ramsey's Mill, they made a hurried flight across the 
bridge and burned it behind them. Reaching Cross 
Creek his lordship expected to glide safely down the 
Cape bear in boats but found Lillington's militia lining 
the river and read} - to pick off his men from every cover- 
ing on the banks. Sadly lie resumed his mournful march 
and only found safety under his guns at Wilmington. 

Cornwallis had boasted in the spring of 1780 that he 
was only waiting for the harvest to ripen in North Caro- 
lina to subsist his troops and he would then hasten to ef- 
fect its subjection. The harvest had ripened but his lord- 
ship had not garnered the sheaves: he came to the fields 
of Mecklenburg but a voice from Kings Mountain sent 


dismay and terror to the hearts of his reapers and they 
forsook the State. 

Another spring had come with its sunshine and warmth 
and the earth was waiting for the seed. The furrows 
were drawn but the sowers were freemen still: the sum- 
mer came and patriots rested undismayed under the shade 
of their own vines and fig trees: no royal standard floated 
over their heads and North Carolina still was free. Geor- 
gia and South Carolina were trodden under foot but the 
proud hearts of the "Old North State" were never hum- 
bled before the British throne. They declared for liberty 
and maintained it unsubdued to the end. The Battle of 
Guilford Court House made it impossible that another 
British soldier should invade her soil, and thenceforth 
she had peace and rest and a free government for her 

No longer able to maintain the conflict in the Caro- 
linas, his lordship continued his flight to Yorktown and 
before the frosts of October had tinged the leaves of the 
forest, he marched out of his breast-works an humbled 
and heart broken captive, and with the surrender of his 
army came independence to the colonies. 

The fatal wound, to royal authority from which it lin- 
gered, and lingering died, on the 19th day of October, 
1 78 1, was given on the spot where we are now assembled 
to do honor to the men who accomplished the deed. 

It is sacred ground and worthy of our veneration and 
affection, worthy to be reclaimed from the hand of deso- 
lation and decay and adorned by the artist with monu- 
ments as imperishable as the memory of those heroes 
who were made immortal here. 

There was not a tree of this noble forest that did not 
give shelter to the riflemen who contended against Eng- 
lish bayonets on this bloody field. And we may appro- 


priately paraphrase the verse of Morris with all its pathetic 

tenderness and truth, — 

" Woodman, spare that tree," 

Touch not a single bough : 
It helped to make us free, 

And we'll protect it now." 

Let ns hold it as a sacred heritage from our fathers; as 
a shrine of liberty where all may worship in the genera- 
tions which shall Continue to the end of time. 

6 9 

At the close of JUDGE SCHENCK'S Historical Oration, 
Governor A. M. Scales was introduced, who said: 

Ladies and Gentlemen: 

Enough has been said. A new chapter has been added 
to the history of the Guilford Battle Ground, and now, 
after more than one hundred years, the conduct and fame 
of the North Carolina militia have been vindicated. 
Hitherto North Carolinians, acquiescing- in a history 
made up at the time from rumors, rather than facts, have 
been subjected to humiliation . and mortification when 
ever this, one of the most important battles of the Rev- 
olution, was mentioned. 

When, as a boy at school in the town of Greensboro, 
I roamed over this field in search of war relics, it was in 
honor of the brave men who fought and died here in de- 
fence of liberty; but I had no reverence, love or respect 
for the memory of the great bod}- of North Carolina mil- 
itia, who, the history of that day taught me, threw away 
their arms and basely fled on the approach of the enemy, 
without firing a shot. 

-The battle ground itself has been neglected and left 
without a monument to mark the spot, save its desola- 
tion. It has been reserved for my distinguished friend, 
Judge Schenck, the orator of the day — more distinguished 
to-day than ever before — to uncover the truth of 
history and tell the tale of this battle as it was actually 
fought. He it was, that while a comparative stranger to 
our people, though a native North Carolinian, conceived 
the idea of forming the Guilford Battle Ground Company, 
to purchase and adorn the grounds. He it was who 


raised the money that was necessary, contributing a large 
share thereof himself, to investigate the truth of history, 
and he it is that by patient and wide research and 
months of incessant labor collected the evidence from 
friends and foes, at home and abroad, which has enabled 
him to wipe out forever the stain that rested upon our 
home militia. In the n imj of the descendants of these 
brave men, in the name oi our great State, I thank him 
for this great work. 

I am gratified to see so large an audience gathered 
together on this occasion, giving unmistakeable evidence 
of the deep interest felt by them in a battle fought by 
their fathers over one hundred years ago in defence of a 
united people and a common country. It tells me in 
language not to be mistaken that notwithstanding our 
late troubles we .ire -till in heart, as well as in fact, one 
undivided people. God grant that when another hun- 
dred wears have passe 1, he who shall stan 1 here to cele- 
brate this day, may still look upon a people free, happy 
and united. 


Col. Lee had observed that, " Had General Greene 
known how severely his enemy was crippled, and that 
the corps under Lee had fought their way to the conti- 
nental line, he would certainly have continued the conflict; 
and, in all probability, would have made it a drawn day, 
if not have secured to himself the victory." 

Why was General Greene not informed on those two 
points ? 

Col. Lee could have foreseen the weight of respon- 
siblity which this observation casts on himself. The first 
would have soon been discovered by the General, had 
time been allowed to make the necessary observations; 
and this time was denied by the rapid approach of the 
regiment of Boze on his exposed wing. 

Had Col. Lee, therefore, continued to occupy the regi- 
ment of Boze, by means of the Light Corps, it would 
have allowed the American commander the time and 
leisure necessary to reconnoitre the remaining strength 
of the enemy. 

And as to the second point, from whom ought the in- 
formation to have come, but Col. Lee himself? 

There was no want of time on his part, for he informs 
us, that his cavalry and infantry had both been sent off 
before the movement of Col. Tarleton to that quarter; 
and even the riflemen of Campbell, who seemed to have 
been left to shift for themselves, would most probably 
have reached the vicinity of the American left sooner 
than the extricated regiment of Hessians. 

The cavalry and Col. Lee himself certainly did reach 
the rear of the American left, before the regiment of 


Boze; and this important piece of information could 
have been communicated, either by message, or -more 
properly, by a junction with the left of the American 

That this was not clone, is acknowledged by Col. Lee, 
and could be proved, if necessary, by other evidence; 
and its not being done certainly leaves Col. Lee exposed 
to the charge, which he attributes t<> the want of intel- 
ligence in the American commander. 

Nay, the acknowledged, and otherwise well known 
fact, of his having retreated by another route, leaves 
himself also exposed to the charge of separating from 
the possible fate of the army, ami thereby adding to its 
difficulties and exposure — Johnsons Life of Greene, \'d. 

-?, p. 20. 


Two combatants particularly attracted the attention of 
those around them. These were Colonel Stuart of the 
Guards; and Captain John Smith of the Marylanders — 
both men conspiscuous for nerve and sinew. They had 
also met before on some occasion and had vowed that 
their next meeting should end in blood. Regardless of 
the bayonets that were clashing around them they rushed 
at each other with a fur}" that admitted of but one result. 
The quick pass of Stuart's small sword was skillfull}' put 
by with the left hand, while the heavy sabre of his an- 
tagonist cleft the Briton to the spine. In one moment 
the American was prostrate on the lifeless body of his 
enemy; and in the next was pressed beneath the weight 
of a soldier who had brought him to the ground. These 
are not imaginary incidents — they are related on the best 
authority. A ball discharged at Smith's head as his 
sword descended on that of Stuart had grazed it, and 
brought him to the ground, at the instant that the bayonet 
of a favorite soldier, who always sought the side of his 
captain in the hour of danger, pierced the heart of one 
who appears to have been equally watchful over the safety 
of the British colonel. This incident, it will be found in 
the sequel of these sketches, was productive of some in- 
teresting consequences. — Johnson 's Life of Greene ', Vol. 2. 


Washixcitox, 1). C, June 1st, [888. 

Dear Sir: I have at last discovered Colonel James 
Stuart's family. lie was the fifth son of Robert Stuart, 
seventh Baron Blantyre, in the Peerage of Scotland. 
The present Baron Blantyre is his grand nephew. I 
have not been able to find the date of his birth. His 
eldest brother, the eighth Baron was born in 172; or 
172b. His father died in 174;,. The family residence are 
Lennoxlore, Haddington, and Erskine House, Renfrew- 
shire, some ten miles below Glasgow on the Clyde. 
When killed at Guilford he held the rank of Captain and 
Lieutenant-Colonel in the hirst Regiment of hoot 
Guards. I can find no trace oi his having been married. 
With regards, Yours faithfully, 

David Hutchesox, 
.1 ssistaut Librarian 

Greensbon 1, \ . L . 


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